Examinations create stress for most students (and parents) and nobody at a college or school wishes to see students struggle to overcome exam stress.

There are ways to help candidates alleviate their worries:

  • Exercise – regular physical activity will keep your spirits up; increase brain power and help you sleep. If you have a particularly stressful day, doing some intense exercise for half an hour will really help to relieve the pressure and make things seem more positive. Recommended: running, swimming, yoga or martial arts.
  • Don’t let your diet slip while revising – it’s easy not to think about what you are eating and to consume much more or less than you would usually,  particularly of the fast food variety, but it is essential that you have a healthy balanced diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables, healthy oils and water, to ensure maximum brain power and to prevent depressive moods.
  • Don’t waste time searching Facebook.
    • The human brain is most productive between 9am and 1pm so make sure that you set this time aside for serious revision, but be realistic about the rest of your day, and give yourself plenty of time off.
    • It is better to revise efficiently for those 4 hours, than to revise inefficiently all day.
  • Eat a good breakfast before you get started – high protein so that you don’t crash afterwards (e.g. scrambled eggs!)
  • Keep a big glass of water with you.
  • Tidy the area you intend to study in.
  • Shut out all noise and distractions – don’t be tempted to have loud music on.
  • Create a timetable and stick to it.
  • Make a list of revision topics and tick these off as you go.
  • After each session write a small list of bullet points in summary of what you have learnt.
  • Have a coffee or tea break, or a fresh air break after each hour.
  • If you can, study near a window for natural light and have it slightly ajar for fresh air.
  • Less is more! Don’t try and cram too much in.
  • Pretend you are a teacher and you are teaching a class that has never heard of what you have been revising and explain what you have been doing clearly and concisely.
  • Use friends to help revise.  Sometimes hearing each other’s answers to questions can offer you a really good way of thinking about the questions and the answers you’re giving.
  • Get a good night sleep - a well-rested mind will focus more easily and retain more information.
  • Take breaks to allow the revision to sink in, although be wary of procrastinating!
  • Listen to your body; if you are tired, then get an early night, if something isn’t sinking in then switch topics and try again with the original topic later.
  • Make your own notes from the notes that you made in your lessons – this way you can think about what you’ve learnt and it can help to make sure that you have really understood what you have learnt.
  • There is a difference between knowledge and understanding, and the key to effective revision is organising the mountains of information into core ideas.
    •  It is less about copying out a syllabus or regurgitating lesson notes, and more about developing an overview from material and summarising what really matters.
  • But be a proactive learner – as you venture through the detail, make a list of questions as they arise, and ensure you find the answers.
  • Make a note of any specific concerns or weaknesses which you need to address and speak with your Tutor, your peers, consult alternative texts, etc.
  • Finally – do not be overwhelmed. There is nothing worse than setting out a three to four-hour study session and spending two hours or so panicking about where to begin, and the other hour or so stressing about how much time you have wasted already!
  • Just get on with it: step by step, chapter by chapter, topic by topic, you will then make your way through what you need to study.



Please plan your answers and always write the plan on your answer sheet – this helps the examiner understand your knowledge.



This article was written by Stephen Clarke, Principal of Cherwell College Oxford



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