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Tips for dealing with exam stress

Are your exams stressing you out? Exam time can be hard so here are some tips to help you cope.

By TAFE Queensland

When exams are on, your head is full of information that you need to be able to recall and discuss to show a depth of understanding of the course material. The more details you recall and illustrate, the better your results will be.

What happens if you stayed up all night studying and it’s gone? You had too much coffee and can’t think straight? You hate exam pressure and are feeling anxious?

If you’ve done the work in advance, the chances are you’ll be fine, even if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at exam time.

Causes of stress

Anything that you feel is beyond your control and puts high demands on you can be a stressful situation. This can be due to both internal and external stressors. You may have unrealistic expectations of yourself or your capabilities, perhaps other people have set a high standard for you to achieve, or you simply aren’t as prepared as you want to be.

Looming deadlines, being disorganised, and feeling unprepared are all causes of anxiety that can produce stressful reactions in your life.

Symptoms of stress

If the stressful situation is short term, you will head into flight or fight mode, where your body prepares itself for the attack that you have been telling it is coming. Your breathing may get faster, your muscles tense, you start sweating and other physical reactions can occur. If it is only short term, your body will recover fairly quickly.

For some people it results in being more active, expressing a nervous energy, staying up later and then becoming overtired; others may turn to food and ‘comfort eat’. Something that causes stress in one person may not cause the same levels of anxiety in another, and each person will have differing reactions when it comes to exam time.

Getting stress relief

Start at the beginning

Avoiding stress in the first place can be achieved through planning and preparation. If your exam or assignment is due in 6 weeks, aim to be ready for it in 5. With an extra week up your sleeve you will have lower levels of anxiety.

Get it done

Avoid procrastinating. If you have scheduled time to do the work, actually make it happen. Turn off Netflix, put away your digital distractions, set a timer to go off in 1 hour or whatever your allotted study time is - and don’t do anything else before the timer goes off! Create discipline in your study habits.

Make time

There is time for study, and time for play. Make an appointment with your books, one with your friends and one with yourself. Keep those appointments as you would a dentist visit and respect your time and yourself.


Do the things you enjoy, whether its photography, colouring in, hiking or karaoke. Spend some time in mediation and refresh the mind, exercise and get endorphins, sleep and have your body operate at its best level. If you are feeling recharged, you will be in a better frame of mind to handle the stress when the deadlines occur.

Do complete work

When studying, writing an assignment or reviewing your notes, keep going until all the work is done. Reward yourself when it’s completed and you will feel good about a great job. If you aren’t sure if it’s up to scratch, get in touch with a tutor and get advice. If you have completed work a week ahead, you will have time to review it before handing it in, providing great relief from stressful situations.

If you find you are still getting overwhelmed and stressed, ask for help. There's no shame and future you will thank you for it.