You take your seat in the exam hall, open your paper, and it hits you then. You don’t know most of the answers. The same thing happened to me when I sat my GCSE Physics exam. I walked out of the hall feeling pretty rubbish. But it happens all the time, to lots of students–and I can tell you from experience that you will bounce back stronger. And to help you get there, here are my 5 tips.
Straight after the exam, grab something to eat and drink. Your body needs to refuel after you’ve been using all that energy to think. If you’re feeling rubbish, treat yourself to some of your favourite foods. Make sure you refill your water bottle too and keep drinking through the day. You can get something from the canteen to take away if you’re not in the mood to socialise… which brings me to my next point.
2. To socialise or not to socialise?
This is completely up to you. I used to hate hanging out with my friends after an exam because it was all everyone talked about! Listening to your friends compare answers will probably make you feel worse, especially if their answers are different from yours. And even more nerve-wracking is when they say they thought the exam was easy! If you’ve had a horrible exam, it might be a good idea to go home. If you can’t go far, just step out for some fresh air. But if you think it’ll help you to talk about it, by all means open up to a friend you trust. You’ll know what’s best at the time.
When you have the chance, go home and do something to take your mind off the exam. Put your favourite film on, curl up under a warm blanket with some snacks and just let yourself relax completely. If you feel like you need to cry, pop on a sad film to get the tears going. Sometimes it feels good to just let it all out. Whatever you decide on, be gentle with yourself and take some ‘me’ time.
4. Look for the positives.
This is one of the hardest steps- trust me, I know. What can be positive about just having finished a tough exam? Well, for one thing it is over and done with! Cross it off your list. And if revised loads, you can be proud of yourself for putting the time and effort in. Good job!
If you can’t find any silver linings when you think back to the exam, list positives about yourself. It’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough after a tough exam. So remind yourself what you’re good at. It doesn’t have to be about school.
5. Revise for the next one.
Unfortunately, you won’t have much down time before the next exam comes up. It might actually help you move on, to have another exam around the corner. Once you’ve taken a break and are feeling a bit better, start revising but don’t push yourself too hard. Your confidence has taken a knock, so revise topics you know. Take it slow to start with flash cards, Quizlet, mind maps, and then build yourself up to more intensive revision like a practice exam paper.
Don’t lose hope! It’s usually the case that you’ve done better on the exam than you think. And just because this one felt awful, it doesn’t mean the others will. Keep going and remember to be proud of yourself for all the hard work.
Carys Scales is an English tutor and studies English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff University.