How to survive exam stress

Arghh exams! It's perfectly normal for you to stress out when preparing for tests and exams like prelims.

But believe it or not a little stress can be good for you when you have a big test coming up; it can give you that rush of adrenaline that can help you work faster and more efficiently.

However, too much stress can cause big problems. It can lead to mood changes, poor appetite, lack of sleep and low self-esteem. It can also affect motivation, making it hard for you to study.

Top tips for tackling exam stress

Be Prepared

Some people perform well when under pressure and can do all their revision just before the exam, but for others things can go to pot if you leave everything to the last minute. 

Try and develop some kind of revision timetable to make sure you get everything done. My SQA have developed a new app My Study Plan which lets you import your exam schedule and use it to generate your study plan. 

Young Scot card holders can get 20% Leckie and Leckie revision guides and 20% off past exam papers at Bright End Publishing.

Check out My World of Work. They can really help you find out what you're good at and identify where your strengths lie. 

Eat Well

If you are studying hard, remember to eat. Food will provide you with energy that you need to concentrate. Try eating a balanced diet including fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta, rice or make some brain busting smoothies.

Remember, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow yourself the odd treat from time to time but loading up on sugary junk food can mean your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, which can leave you feeling irritable, washed out and depressed.

Sleep Well

A good night's sleep will make you feel happier and more positive the next morning. Everyone needs an average of eight hours sleep at night and as a teenager this can rise to as much as ten hours. Stress can mean that you don’t sleep as well as you normally do.

Start studying at the time of day you feel most awake, whether that’s first thing in the morning or in the evening, you know yourself.

Relax and Take a Break

Spend one or two nights a week relaxing, it's nothing to feel guilty about. Just plan this time alongside your study to feel the benefits. If you find you can’t unwind, try and do something that will keep your mind and your body active, such as playing football or dancing.

You may even find you return to your studies feel refreshed and ready to tackle that hard topic you had been putting off.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

Set your goals based on what you know you can achieve, rather than trying to compete with friends. Everyone has their own method of studying and will work at a different pace.

Be Nice To Yourself

It’s all about Positive Mental Attitude. If you tell yourself that you are great, that you can pass these exams, and just generally psyche yourself up you will be in a far better frame of mind both for revising and for sitting your exams.

Getting Extra Help

If you usually get extra help at school, it may be that you'll need support to be able to do your best in exams. Whatever support you need, it's up to your school to make sure you get it. 

You can find out more about getting help with exams in Enquire's factsheet: Extra Support with Exams.


Talk To Someone

If you’re still stressed out and you feel it's all getting too much, it’s important to talk to someone. Everyone knows sitting exams or tests can be one of the most stressful times of your life, so you are not alone. Your year tutor or school counsellor may be able to show you some ways of dealing with stress, or arrange for someone to help with your studying.

If You Haven't Done Quite So Well

Try not to worry! Although you want to do well, remember that if you don't do as well as expected it is not the end of the world. Many successful people did not perform well in exams. If it really matters, you can always re-sit or redo it. 

Good Luck! We know you can do it!