Students sitting on the grass studying

It’s Term 4. You can see the finish line to another year of school. You might be thinking about life beyond school, and planning for university. Before then, there’s a little thing called your ‘end of year exams’ that are just around the corner. (but hey, don’t stress!)

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If you’re starting to feel nervous about your exams, that’s normal. In fact, studies have shown that a certain amount of stress and anxiety is a good thing in the lead-up to exams. Exams can motivate you. Challenge you to study and revise like never before. Bring out your best.

Of course, every student is different. For some students, even the thought of doing exams is stressful. (does this sound familiar?)

To help you get through it (and you will get through it), we’ve put together 9 simple tips to help manage your exam stress. Some might seem obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to hear them again.

1. Start preparing now

You can’t rock up to your exams without doing any study and revision. (Well, you can, but chances are you won’t perform very well). Instead, start preparing for your exams sooner rather than later. Knowing you’ve put in the hours with study and revision can reduce your exam stress. Also, it’ll help you lock in the important facts, theories and formulas you can expect in your exams.

2. Create a study plan

Dedicate study and revision to every subject. While it’s tempting to concentrate on your stronger subjects, don’t ignore your weaker ones. In fact, it’s a good idea to spend extra time on your weaker subjects to improve your knowledge base. This will also help to settle your nerves in the weeks ahead.

3. Your study plan should be realistic

Your study plan is a way to organise yourself in the weeks ahead. Make sure to write down all your exam dates, times and the location as soon as they’re available. Also, be realistic. If you have responsibilities (ie, class, a casual job, family, sport), try and work around it. Or better still, try and pull back on some of your responsibilities. This will help you to stay focussed on your exam preparation.

4. Set goals for study time

Some students prefer to study in the morning. Others prefer the evening – whatever works for you. Just remember that short, sharp sessions of around 30 to 40 minutes will keep you focussed. Plus from here on in, try and study on a regular basis. (The mistake many students make is cramming the night before an exam, which adds to the exam pressure).

Young male students studying

5. Take short breaks 

Exams are not so much a test of how smart you are – they’re more a test of how good your memory is. Your brain can only take in so much information at a time. So every 45 minutes or so, take a short break. You could go for a walk around the block. Do some stretching exercises. Play with your dog or cat. Run a bath. Anything that helps you switch off. But then get back to your next study session, and go again for another 45 minutes.

6. Look after your physical and mental health 

Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Staying up late and studying can take a toll on your mind and body. You might be able to do it for a couple of nights. But if you’re doing too many ‘late-nighters’ you’ll hit the wall. Instead, try and get into a good daily routine. This includes study, some form of physical exercise, plus a good night’s sleep.

7. Use positive self-talk

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to have negative thoughts. So try and ignore that pesky little voice in your head that chips away at your confidence. Instead, nurture positive self-talk; “I can do this!” “I’ve done lots of study.” “I will answer every question to the best of my ability.” “I’m ready for this exam.” Positive self-talk can make a big difference to how you approach your exams.

8. Talk with your teacher about course criteria

Knowing the course criteria to study will help in your preparation. It’ll also reduce your anxiety. If you’re not sure, then talk with your teacher. Another good idea is to look at previous end of year exams for the same subject. By doing this, you’ll get a better idea of the types of questions you can expect.

Students researching scholarships

9. Practising with past exam papers

Previous Exam Papers for all current Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification (TASC) Courses have been collated on a single web page to help with revision and practice. You can check them out here.

10. Breathe

On the big day itself, it’s normal to feel nervous. If you can feel your breathing is becoming short and shallow, take some slow deep breaths. Do this two or three times, and before you know it you’ll start to calm down.

Good luck with your exams. And remember – you can do this!

Key takeaway

Start preparing for your exams sooner rather than later. Knowing you’ve put in the hours with study and revision can reduce your exam stress. Also, it’ll help you lock in the important facts, theories and formulas you can expect in your exams.

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