Coping with Exam Stress
Did you know stress can be a good thing? In fact, low levels of stress can stimulate the production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins, which strengthens the connections between neurons in the brain. Which makes sense if you look at it as an evolutionary thing, the early hunter-gather who was a bit stressed over where the next meal was coming from needed to remember where the best fruits and nuts could be found, or how to make the best arrow. Today we can use this to improve our retention of the stuff we need to know before an exam.
But the key word there is low levels. High levels of stress can shut down the key parts of your brain that you need to remember and recall information, the part that you need to plan out exam answers, and even worse bring on panic attacks. So is your child (or you if the exams are looming on your calendar) have any of the following symptoms.
- Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
- Constant tiredness
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Poor appetite
- Loss of interest in activities
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Blurred vision
Then you need to sort out exam stress immediately.
Firstly, consider seeing your doctor, rule out other causes and there may be something he or she can do to help. If it is just your exams, then there are some simple things you can do to help.
St. Andrews University has some great general study tips for students.
Believe in yourself. If you prepare for the exams properly you should do fine, meaning that there is no need to worry excessively.
Don’t try to be perfect. It’s great to succeed and reach for the stars, but keep things in balance. If you think that “anything less than a 2.1 means I’ve failed” then you are creating mountains of unnecessary stress for yourself. Aim to do your best but do recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time.
Take steps to overcome problems. If you find you don’t understand some of your course material, getting stressed out won’t help. Instead, take action to address the problem directly by seeing or talking to your Tutor or getting help from your classmates.
Don’t keep things bottled up. Confiding in someone you trust and who will be supportive is a great way to alleviate stress and worry.
Keep things in perspective. The exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now but, in the grander scheme of your whole life, they are only a small part. Interrupt negative thoughts with positive ones. Examples: “I can do this”, “I will do my best”, “I can pass this test”, “I will focus only on the question in front of me.” “I have done it before, so I can do it again.” Actively challenge your irrational thoughts. Life will be worth living regardless of this exam. Respect yourself for taking this course and getting this far, regardless of the outcome.
Plan your study time. Too much material + Too little time = Anxiety. Plan your studying with regularly scheduled study sessions about 50 minutes long separated by 5 – 10 minute breaks.
Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Anxiety increases when one feels tired, run down and overwhelmed.
Some of the key steps to helping your child deal with exam stress effectively
If you’re interested in how Scholar Tutoring SQA Easter revision courses can help your child with their exam preparation, don’t hesitate to get in touch.