Top Tips on Managing Exam Stress

Bute Hall empty desks

The revision and exam period can be a stressful time, particularly as we continue to adjust to new exam conditions and remote delivery.

To help us manage these challenges, there are lots of proactive steps we can take to maintain our health, wellbeing and productivity. We’ve rounded up some top tips to help you feel calm and in control during revision and exam season…

Maintain the basics…

When life is stressful, it can be really easy to lose our routines and stop maintaining the basics. So, try and keep a focus on:

  • Eating well - try to minimise sugar and caffeine and eat a rainbow of fresh fruit and veg!
  • Drinking lots of water - people often underestimate how much hydration helps our cognitive functioning!
  • Getting quality sleep, around 8 hours' a night - if you're stressed, or struggling to relax and it’s affecting your sleep, there are lots of ways to aid getting a restful night - find helpful tips and strategies here.
  • Keep active – regular movement is a great de-stressor and helps keep us feeling fresher and more alert. Do some desk stretching, go for a short walk or throw on some upbeat music and dance around! Check out UofG Sports for plenty more info.
Get a good routine in place, and set realistic goals…
  • Think about when and where you work best - not everyone is a morning person, and there's no one best place or time to work, it's about what works for you. If you need to access the library, you can check availability via the UofG Life App, available here:
  • Take frequent breaks - research tells us that we can only concentrate properly for 30-45 minutes. Try using a technique like Pomodoro to structure your revision into bitesize chunks, and when you do take a break make sure you don’t stay at your desk!
  • Form a realistic revision plan (remember, no one can study five subjects in one day!) - having a clear plan of action helps to give a sense of being in control and on top of what we need to do. Equally, don’t panic if you don’t stick rigidly to your plan – tomorrow is a new day!
Relax and take time off…
  • It can be tempting to think we need to study and prep constantly, but this can be counter-productive and deplete your mental and physical energy levels, meaning you are less productive and focussed. Identify the things that reenergise and relax you, and make sure to include these in your revision plans. Having a good balance is just as important as the amount of time spent studying!
  • How you do in an exam does not define you as a person; we all cope differently under pressure and there is so much more to who you are as a person beyond how you do in an exam.
  • During exam time, we all feel under pressure but pause to think about how far you’ve come; on top of the usual challenges of coming to University, this year has brought us many changes to adapt to – you have done so well already, getting to University and adapting to the challenges of this past year.
Ground yourself, and remember to breathe..

If you feel your anxiety rising at any point, try a simple grounding technique – pause, and find: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch, 1 thing you can taste.

Above everything else, remember to breathe! We can use our breath to relieve anxiety, improve our focus and concertation to name just a few benefits. Here’s how in four easy steps:

  • Inhale through your nose gently for two seconds.
  • Hold your breath in for one second.
  • Breathe out through your mouth slowly for four seconds.
  • Repeat for one minute (or longer if you like) and you should feel a difference in your mood!
  • If the 2-1-4 count feels too short, try to lengthen your breaths slightly. As long as you breathe out longer than you breathe in you’ll feel the calming benefit!
If you’re struggling, talk to someone…

Help is always available at UofG including our Peer Supporters. If anxiety (or any other mental health issue) is affecting your ability to function, you can also self-refer to CaPS.


Additional Information & Resources

You can find more information on the CaPS webpages, and if you would like to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, there are a number of support services available:

  • All students and staff have access to Togetherall, a safe space online to get things off your chest and learn how to improve and manage your mental health and wellbeing.
  • If you are experiencing mental health difficulties that are affecting your ability to function, you can self-refer to Counselling and Psychological Services(CaPS) via their website for a consultation or assessment for therapy.
  • The International Student Support Team can provide support and guidance for international students You can find details here including upcoming online social events.
  • Glasgow University Nightline is a confidential listening service operated by students for students, you can find more information on their Facebook page
  • If you are a student living in halls of residence you can contact your Living Support Teamwho are on hand for a support, welfare issues and signposting.

 The UofG Life app also provides useful links to health and wellbeing resources available to students. With easy access from your mobile, discover more on the services provided by Nightline, Togetherall and CaPS. You can download the app via Apple Store and Google Play. You can also access the app via the University’s app website.

First published: 6 May 2021

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