Surviving Exam Season

Preparing for exams is often a process filled with anxiety. With exam season fast approaching, we have put together some helpful tips on how to prepare effectively, and how to cope with stress.


  • Try to start revising as early as possible: don’t leave it until the last minute! Try and put together a revision plan or timetable: this will help you prioritise and feel more in control. Remember to schedule in enough breaks: research shows that shorter 20-30 minute spells work best, because your concentration is much higher.
  • You should also try and accommodate the type of learner you are. Do you respond better to visual aids, or verbal reminders? Do you prefer studying alone or with other people? Think about when you work best (morning, afternoon or evening). You should try to revise when you are most alert and focused.
  • Organise Your Study Space: make sure you have enough space to spread your textbooks and notes out. Try and get rid of all distractions, and make sure you feel as comfortable and able to focus as possible. For some people, this could mean almost complete silence; for others, background music helps. Some of us need an organised space in order to concentrate, while others thrive in a more cluttered environment. Think about what works for you, and take the time to get it right.
  • Use Past Papers: one of the most effective ways to prepare for exams is to practice looking at past papers. This helps you get used to the format of the questions, and, if you time yourself, can also be excellent practice for making sure you spend the right amount of time on each section.
  • Ask for Feedback: ask friends or flatmates to test you and give you feedback. That will help you to get it clear in your head, and also to highlight any areas where you need more work. This is also a good way to have a break from books and notes.

Did you know? The Institute for Academic Development are running a series of workshops on exam preparation. They also have some useful (and very practical) advice on their site. The Student Counselling Service have put together a step by step guide to exam success.

 Looking after Yourself: Coping with Stress


Remember that feeling anxious is normal and, for most of us, inevitable at examination time. Fortunately, you can do plenty of things that will help you cope and put things into perspective.

  • Pay attention to your diet (keep your body and brain well-fuelled by choosing nutritious foods that encourage concentration and memory, such as fish, nuts, and seeds) and take regular exercise (why not pop into the Centre for Sport and Exercise?).
  • First of all, you should remember to get enough sleep, as tiredness promotes anxiety. Always spend some time unwinding before you go to bed: watch some television, chat to friends, or listen to some music.
  • You could also try some relaxation exercises, as they can reduce your overall anxiety level and help you cope with any panicky feelings. The NHS Choices website has some suggestions for simple and effective exercises
  • Finally, and most importantly, think positively. When we are anxious, we tend to focus on our negative thoughts and this can increase our anxiety.

Did you know? The Chaiplancy host yoga and mindfulness sessions every week. ISAS team member Erika recommends both!



Categories: Practical Guides, University Life

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