Tips and advice on coping with exam pressure

As exam season starts for thousands of accountancy students across the country, Jessica French, learning & development manager at CABA, shares tips and advice on how to prepare and cope with the emotional rollercoaster

Exam time is looming, and with it comes an understandable amount of stress. Exams are a constant part of life for many students and working professionals (such as medics, accountants, or those studying for chartered qualifications), however that never makes them any easier. Many people incorrectly feel that their future can be dictated by the results of the exams they take, leading many students to place a huge amount of pressure on themselves.

But, how can you best prepare for the rollercoaster of exams and the countdown to results? Here are my top tips for coping with exam pressure.

Take some alone time

During the exam period, or when you’re eagerly waiting for your results, tensions and anxiety can be high. This can sometimes result in you acting out towards others. If this is the case, it may be best for you to enjoy some alone time. Remind your family members that it’s important for them to give you some space to breathe and destress during this time.

To take this to the next level, why not take up yoga? The breathing techniques are an excellent way to soothe both the body and mind, and the stretching can ease tired joints. Yoga can also generate endorphins which help to encourage more positive moods.

Regularly practicing yoga and meditation has been linked to increased memory and focus, which makes it an excellent way to combat stress, while also potentially improving the revision process. Finally, the practice promotes solitude and quiet time – which may be exactly what you need.

Start a rewards fund

Exam time can be extremely taxing, and often those studying will forget to take time out to reward themselves for all their hard work. Remember, rewards don’t have to wait until after exams. If you have been working particularly hard, it may be time to recognise all of that hard work.

By starting a rewards fund – which you can generate by adding a small sum of money each time you hit a revision target – you can create a system which facilitates the purchase of ‘small pleasures’ to keep motivation and morale high.

Although this coping mechanism shouldn’t be over-utilised, taking proper breaks can help to prevent burn out and reduce stress levels which will aid your revision efforts. Even an act as simple as getting away for a day can help to soothe worried minds and generate some positivity and ‘feel good’ chemicals – combining relaxation and quality time with loved ones.

Take a break

It’s important to schedule breaks into your revision timetable as your brain needs time to absorb what you’ve been studying. You could, for instance, schedule 30-minute revising sessions with five or 10-minute breaks in between, or slightly longer periods of revision broken up by longer breaks – whichever suits the way you learn best.

You could use this time as an opportunity to stretch your legs but whatever you do, make sure it isn’t too draining.

For example, talking to family and friends can be emotionally draining. It’s also important that the break doesn’t turn into a long one – be strict with your timings but do make time for regular breaks.

Shake it off

We all know that exercise is key to keeping a healthy body and mind. Exercise of any kind is a great way to work off excess stress and gain positive energy. If you’re feeling particularly nervous about your exams, it may be time to quite literally ‘run’ away from your negative emotions.

Cardio isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to exercise. If you aren’t the sporty type, why not try out some more interesting ways to get your blood pumping and your mind away from exams? For example, you could try out boxercise to take out your revision related frustrations.

Have a laugh

You’ll be surprised how effective laughing can be when you’re feeling stressed out. Laughing out loud can immediately relieve tension, relax your muscles and increase the release of endorphins. So, when you’re done revising, why not gather your friends and turn on your favourite comedian or sitcom?

Plan for multiple outcomes

No-one likes the idea of failure. However, it’s the very idea of missing the mark or not doing well on exams which leads to stress in the first place. If you plan or think through multiple outcomes you can help to reduce this stress by acknowledging that a failed exam will not be the end of the world.

By calmly addressing all the possible outcomes - success, failure, or whatever lies in between the two – you can remove the fear of the unknown, as you will be prepared for any possible result.

If you have a plan in place for every possible eventuality, then none of them can be truly disastrous or scary. This will not only help you with planning for the future, but it will help to remove the fear of ‘what if…’ when it comes to results day.

Click here to watch CABA’s video where ICAEW members share their experiences and advice on how to cope with exam failure and stress.

About the author

Jessica French is learning & development manager at CABA

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