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Coping with Exam Stress

Written by: Tanvi Gupta

School is one of the worst stressors in the lives of youth today. With academics becoming even more challenging and competitive, students find themselves pressured to take more rigorous courses and overload their schedules. Amidst all of these classes comes the bane of every student’s existence: exams. Cramming, all-nighters, and back-to-back tests can put a damper on a student’s mental health. Thus, finding effective coping strategies for coping with exam stress is a must for all students. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Talk to Someone

When your teacher announces an upcoming test, your heart squeezes, and your breath quickens. There might be days or even weeks till the exam date, but the stress is still unbearable. Instead of fretting over it by yourself, talk to a friend or someone else you trust. They can probably relate to your situation, meaning you are not alone. Feeling heard and understood is an important psychological need for humans, and talking to someone you trust can give you just that. They can support you while you study and listen to you when you feel the pressure sinking in. You can even coordinate group study sessions with friends. Five heads are way better than one after all!

2. Take Small Breaks

Dartmouth College’s Academic Skills Center advises recognizing the limits of your concentration and not trying to stretch yourself too thin. You might think that taking breaks every ten minutes would be far less productive than studying for six hours straight, but how much of that time is actually spent studying? When you’re a sleep-deprived student trying to sit in a chair for a fourth of a whole day, you are bound to zone out or doze off every now and then. This is highly unproductive compared to taking small breaks while working the full time during your regular attention span. The idea may sound a little strange to hear, but try it out: you might just find yourself in a better mood with a better grade.

3. Start Preparing Early

Exams are so much easier when you feel prepared. Rather than studying the day before, try to prevent extreme exam stress by starting early. Cramming is not learning. There is a significantly lower chance of you actually remembering most of what you crammed. Even worse, you will just be creating a snowball of stress for your future self to deal with. Say that you manage to remember what you crammed for the day of the test. What about the next test that builds on what you were supposed to have learned? Midterms and finals? Retention is key to learning; what use is knowledge to you if you possess it for only one day? More stress will lead to more indulgence in cramming, thereby setting yourself up for a vicious cycle of stress, cramming, and exams. On the other hand, if you start studying early and review your lessons at least a couple of times a week, you will retain information better and save time when you come closer to more important, all-encompassing exams.


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