MyTutor for Students

6 ways to manage your (completely normal) pre-exam nerves

Guest blog from our tutor Carys Scales

I still get nervous sitting exams–even after years of practice. The thing is, pre-exam nerves don’t go away. But you can manage the stress so that exam season feels less intense. I’ve got a few techniques up my sleeve that really help me to stay calm, focused and relaxed at this stressful time.  

So, here are 6 ways you can manage your pre-exam nerves too.

  1. Take breaks.
  2. Move your body!
  3. Set realistic goals.
  4. Get enough sleep.
  5. See friends, family and pets.
  6. Believe in yourself.

1. Take breaks.

Before you say–’I don’t have the time’, hear me out. When I revise, I can sometimes forget about the most important thing: me! Without taking breaks, I can become overwhelmed and grumpy. So now I make sure to take breaks and my brain and body get some much-needed rest. Switching off is important to avoid burnout. I actually schedule breaks into my daily timetable. This way there’s a balance between work and the fun stuff– and I don’t accidentally fall down a YouTube rabbit hole for hours. The forty-twenty method works a charm. This is when you study for forty minutes and then take a break for twenty, I also make sure to give myself at least three one-hour breaks: one for the morning, afternoon and evening.

2. Move your body!

Revision can mean hours of sitting. Exercise is a great way for me to stretch my aching muscles and relax my mind. Don’t worry- you don’t need to fork out for an expensive gym membership to get the benefits of exercise. I find workout videos on YouTube are perfect for getting active. Another personal favourite is a good old-fashioned walk, with a great podcast in my earphones. Walks can also be a great way to soak up your vitamin Ds. If I can’t switch off the revision part of my brain when I’m on my walk, I listen to a revision podcast. This helps me chill out– get my exercise in, while still revising.

3. Set realistic goals.

timetable-illustration

I love to-do lists, but find that when exam season comes around, I always try to bite off more than I can chew. Take my advice– don’t overdo your to-do lists and goals. It adds more pressure on your shoulders. Remember, you do not need to cram weeks’ worth of revision into one day. Writing down a list of weekly goals and then breaking them into shorter, daily chunks maximises my productivity without making me feel overwhelmed.

4. Get enough sleep.

I’m always stressed and irritable when I’m tired. It can be tempting to stay up until 3 am to catch up on shows (after all, Bridgerton won’t binge watch itself!) But after years of sitting exams, I know that revision–and exams are always better with at least seven hours of sleep. So, I put off some of the fun stuff and remember there’s a nice, long summer to look forward to. For now, focus on getting enough zzzs!

5. See friends, family, and pets.

If I force myself to revise when I’m anxious, it just ramps up my anxiety. So I make sure to take a break when I feel overwhelmed and hang out with people (and other animals) I love. Revising can be lonely, so it’s important to build in face-to-face time with friends and fam. And if I don’t feel like talking, but still want company–that’s where pets come in. Playing with my two guinea pigs- Foxy and Sky- helps me unwind so that I can go back to revision with a clearer head.

6. Believe in yourself.

My inner critic pops up a lot in the weeks and days before exams. To get back on track, I respond to that critical voice by changing how I talk to myself. I tell myself that I’ve already come so far and I’m so close to the end. I say things like, ‘As long as I do my best, I’m proud of myself,’ instead of, ‘I will only be proud of myself if I get this grade.’ For those of you who are into yoga or meditation, slipping some positive affirmations in your routine is a great way to remind yourself that you’ve got this. I also write my positive affirmations on flashcards and stick them around my room– on my laptop or my mirror, so I can look at them throughout the day.

If it’s your first time sitting an exam, it’s completely OK to feel nervous- after all, you’re entering uncharted territory. Just know that the build-up is the worst bit and once exams are over, you’ll have weeks to chill out– and live your best life!

Carys Scales is an English tutor and studies English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff University.

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