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How to approach exams

At one point or another, everyone experiences stress surrounding exams – it’s perfectly human. But for those that can’t seem to overcome their worries, and find it affecting their results, try these simple methods of concentration and focus, and see if they improve your approach to exams.

I am no stranger to exam stress. I vividly remember having a horrific panic attack over my GCSE French exam. I didn’t receive much help at all, and was merely told that ‘fear isn’t real’ and ‘stress was just in my head’. As you can imagine, it did nothing to calm me down, and so I powered through my exams using my own techniques and methods to help calm me down, and now exams are no worry at all (Well still a little bit, I’m still human…)

Regular exercise

Believe me, I know exercising can suck, but you don’t have to do hours of cardio to de-stress. For me, a great sport was horse riding, but I also invested in swimming and gymnastics. They’re great sports to help clear the mind and relax. Or you could try just doing some yoga before bed or going for a walk, anything can help.

Healthy diet

I can’t speak much for my diet recently (living alone really does tempt you to buy a Chinese doesn’t it?), but during my previous exam periods, I ate a healthy balance of food. I know it seems like the simplest, most obvious thing in the world, but it gets your brain functioning properly. It allows you to concentrate, feel awake and alert, and to study more effectively, as you don’t feel sluggish or hungry.

Another person who struggles during exam season is my boyfriend. He was diagnosed with autism at quite a late stage in his life, only recently securing the extra time he needs in exams. My point is, he’s experienced exams with and without the extra help needed, and the difference in his results is outstanding. Here are a few methods he’s found to be useful for him during exams.

Break down the question

Something every mum and teacher tells you to do nearer to exams – it’s logical. Think carefully, try not to lose track of what you’re doing, and just refer back to the question. Break it down into sections, plan your answer in your head. It will really help to have a structure set in your mind of what you want to say!

Drown out your surroundings

When you’re in the exam, or even just studying, take yourself away from other noises or distractions. Put your phone away, concentrate on your thoughts, be in the present. Isolate yourself from your surroundings. My boyfriend still struggles to not lose his train of thought, but one way he manages to control it is by really focusing on the task at hand and nothing else.

Extra time

If you are entitled to extra time in an exam, take it. It can be an absolute lifesaver, especially when you’re thinking about the question and it sparks another thought completely irrelevant to the exam, and 20 minutes later you’re wondering where you would next go on holiday. If you aren’t allowed extra time, then apply this to your studies. Do not cram at the last minute, it never works, and you will not retain any information in the long run. Give yourself time to learn, it does not happen overnight.

Listen to music

It is a fantastic outlet for stress. I take a particular liking to Ariana Grande, whilst my boyfriend plays quite a few instruments, like the clarinet and saxophone. If you’re not into music, invest in a hobby. Do whatever you love to do for a minimum of one hour a day, get into the structure and pattern of a routine. It will help focus your concentration and make you feel accomplished and happy.

Good luck for the exam season, don’t panic, and just be prepared and do your best!

Make sure you check out Beccy’s newest vlog over on the Student Life YouTube channel to find out how she prepares for exams:

This article is featured on Learning at Lincoln. 

Please note: This content was created prior to Coronavirus, and some things might be different due to current laws and restrictions. Please refer to the University of Lincoln for the latest information.

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