Exam Survival Guide - 5 Tips For Staying Happy When The Going Gets Tough
Posted on May 16 2019
We are well and truly into exam season now whether it's SAT's, GCSE's, A Levels or beyond. If you’re reading this you’re either taking exams or supporting someone who is. My daughter is taking her GCSE's this year and it's amazed me just how different they are now to when I took them. For a start the name has changed – they were O’levels in my day and I seem to remember doing one exam per subject and that was it. (Perhaps my recollection of that time is a little sketchy now - remember they were O’levels then, I am that old, the memory is not what it was!) These days, there seems to be multiple exams per subject and by the end my daughter will have taken 25 separate exams – yes 25! You can see why the pressure mounts.
On the flip side, there are also some positive changes since I was a student. Study aids are available in a variety of different formats now so whatever the preferred learning style, there will be something to suit. Many schools also offer additional revision sessions during, after and before school. I think the breakfast sessions prove very popular despite the early start – you’re always onto a winner if you’re offering baked goods!
Thinking has also moved on in terms of mental wellbeing and staying mentally prepared during exam season and here are just a few things I wish I’d known back then:
1. Breathe! Of course it’s a natural function but when we’re feeling stressed, one of the simplest things you can do is take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable to do this and really focus on each breath. This helps to stop your mind from racing, steadies your heart rate and in turn helps you focus.
2. Think Positive! Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t – you’re right, Henry Ford
The mind believes what you tell it so if you tell yourself you’re not prepared; chances are you won’t perform well. Giving yourself a positive pep talk, visualising yourself doing well, repeating a positive mantra or reminding yourself how hard you have worked are all great ways to create a positive mindset throughout your exams. If you do have a bad day, try not to dwell on it. Instead, focus of what went well or how you can prevent a bad day happening again. You can’t change what has happened but you can change how you react to it.
3. Eat, Sleep, Read, Repeat It might be tempting to cram revision into every waking moment but bite size sessions and regular breaks will be far more beneficial. Getting out into the fresh air is a great way to reinvigorate your brain and a little exercise gets the feel good hormones pumping, meaning your revision is more likely to sink in. Why not exercise with friends for an extra feel good boost. Avoid sugary snacks or energy drinks. They may keep you going for a little while but the resulting crash will hinder your progress. Eat plenty of fruit, nuts and drink water to stay hydrated. Sleep is also essential. Leave the phone out of reach and get a good night’s sleep.
4. Meditate 10 minutes of meditation each day is proven to have many benefits. However you choose to do it, meditation can help reduce stress, help you sleep, help with positive visualisation, keep you grounded and apps like Headspace have specific meditations to help with studying, feeling overwhelmed or burned out. Just the simple act of focussing on your breathing (see point 1) will help keep you calm and focussed.
5. Keep Perspective Yes exams are important but you have so many more qualities than the ability to pass exams and it’s these qualities that make you the wonderfully unique person you are. If you get the grades you wanted – fantastic and congratulations! If you don’t, it really isn’t the end of the world. Either way, always take time to reflect, learn from the experience and use this learning to move forward.