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Coping with exams and exam anxiety

For most students, exam time is particularly stressful. Ironically, many students attempt to deal with this stress in ways that are counter-productive or even self-defeating. Their behaviour and attitudes tend to decrease their performance on exams rather than enhance it.

While there is no guarantee for an easy time on exams, there are some guidelines that you can follow to help you learn more efficiently during exam time.

Remember that you are NOT alone. Almost everyone gets a little anxious and stressed at exam time.

It does NOT help to put added stress on yourself by:

  • Keeping irregular hours. Keep a steady and consistent sleeping schedule. DON’T stay up really late or get up really early.
  • Pulling all-nighters. Chances are you won’t remember much two hours after studying all night.
  • Eating irregularly or eating junk food. Eat at regular times and choose healthy meals and snacks. A properly nourished mind works better than one subsisting on junk food.


  • Try to stay on a reasonably regular schedule of reviewing, eating, sleeping and relaxing. Start at least a week - or preferably two weeks - before exams begin.
  • Don't attempt to study 24 hours a day. Your efficiency and capacity to retain material will rapidly decrease.
  • Don't force yourself to study beyond your normal limits of concentration. If you find yourself able to concentrate for only 10 or 20 minutes, study for only that period of time and then take a short break. Your concentration will return. In fact, short and regular study periods are more productive than lengthy single sessions.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of fluids. Excessive amounts of coffee may produce confusion and even disorganization of thought processes, which is not good for your memory.
  • A study released in the UK in April 2012 showed that students who drank water before and during their exam scored an average of five per cent higher than those who did not drink water. The lesson? Stay hydrated.
  • Don't use drugs or alcohol. They can decrease your ability to think clearly. Take medication only under the supervision of a physician.
  • Be conservative and reasonable about the demands you place on yourself.
  • If you have a problem you believe will interfere with taking your exams, be sure to notify your instructor, advisor or physician before you take your exam.

 ©Adapted from Cambrian College

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