Exam season can take up a lot of our time, energy and brain space, and can leave us feeling drained and like the rest of your lives are either on hold or falling apart. For the most part, that’s ok, because exam season is a short period of time and once it’s over we can get back on top of everything else. It’s ok if we let some things slip during exams, but there are still some things we can do to help us feel like we’re still managing, and like we are keep some semblance of order on our lives. Below are some tips to try out, but remember its important to find the balance of what works for you, and if you try some of these and find that they don’t work, that is no reflection on who you are as a person or your ability to get through exam season.

If you can, make the time to organise some things ahead of time. For example, making your lunch, planning or laying out your outfit the night before, or packing your bag the night before can help take the pressure off the next morning. Planning your meals and snacks, doing grocery shopping the week before or over the weekend, or doing your laundry the weekend before or over the weekend if possible can help too.

The morning of the exam

Dress warmly enough that if your exam hall is draughty or cold you will be warm, but wear layers that you can take off it it’s stuffy. Check and double the your exam timetable for what is exam is on when, and where it’s on. Check the timetables and updates online if you are using public transport to travel to your exam, and leave early enough to account for any unusual traffic or accidents on the road. Make sure to eat something, even if you don’t normally eat breakfast, and even if you are feeling nervous – your brain needs fuel to work well.

During the exam

Sit with your feet flat on the floor to help ground you, and make sure not to hunch over your desk – this sends stress signals to your body. Once the exam starts, read the paper carefully – read it a second time slowly. Don’t panic if it feels like you don’t understand the questions or if nothing you have studied is coming up. Jot down some rough notes of anything you can think of, even if you’re not fully sure if it’s part of the answer. It will help get your brain going, and help you to focus. Keep an eye on the clock, allocate time for each question, and hold a bit of time at the end in case you need to go back over anything. Don’t panic if you run out of time for a question; go on to the next one and come back during your extra time at the end. Do your best to ignore others around you taking the exam, and whether they are writing, or finished early, etc. Be careful about engaging in post-mortems about the exam with people afterwards – the exam is over, it doesn’t matter what you wrote compared to someone else because neither of you can change it once the exam is done.

 If you start feeling panicked, take some slow deep breaths and take a drink of water if you have some with you. Let the invigilators know and go to the bathroom if you can to splash water on your face and take some more deep breaths

After the exam

On days where there are exams, we spend a lot of time indoors, sitting down. As much as possible, get outdoors once your exam is done. If you can manage this while it’s bright out, even better. Put away the notes, books and handouts related to that exam so that you can focus on what’s next. Make sure to eat well and hydrate as while it might not seem like it, doing exams uses up a lot of our physical energy. Stick to your bedtime routine and get to bed early to allow your brain recuperate.

If you’ve read this, and you’re still struggling to study, reach our for help to your lecturers, tutor, librarian, SU, family and friends, campus counsellor or GP for help. You don’t ever need to struggle on your own.

No matter how you feel an individual exam our the overall exam period has gone for you, remember that is not a reflection of who you are as a person. You are important and of value, and no exam or assessment is worth compromising your wellbeing. If you are struggling with your mental health in a way that is impacting your life, please reach out for help. Sources of support are available here.