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No matter how planned and ready you are, exam time is always stressful. It can really take a toll on both your physical and mental health. 

But we’re here to help! This exam survival kit outlines proven study techniques and strategies to help reduce stress. From easing exam nerves to boosting energy levels, this guide will help you perform optimally over your exam periods.

Top tips for coping with exam stress: Dos and Don'ts

Don’t overload yourself

Taking on too much too soon can mean you’ll burn out and run out of steam and motivation! Try to make a realistic revision schedule to split your work into chunks.

Feed your body and your brain

It’s easy to dismiss healthy eating in favour of quick meals like pot noodles and takeouts. However, your brain needs the energy and nourishment from nutrient-rich foods to be able to support prolonged study. Without a healthy, balanced diet you will find yourself stalling on your revision early.

Don’t neglect exercise

It’s a great way to take a break but also increases concentration and learning capacity.

Get a good night's sleep

Especially closer to exams, it can be tempting to trade sleep for extra study, but don’t! You need at least 8 hours of sleep a night, daily, to be able to study effectively and retain the content you’re learning. It is also vital that you adjust your sleeping pattern earlier and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. 

Keep connected to people

Don’t stop seeing people and cut yourself off from your friends. You still need some downtime after studying long hours. Your studying will become less effective without some relaxation and it may well drive you insane! It's important to de-stress and your friends will be able to calm you down if you get overwhelmed. Don’t go overboard though: try setting a timer to remind yourself to get back to it!

Remember to drink plenty of water

You’ll avoid headaches this way and it's been claimed to reduce anxiety.

Don’t compare and contrast with your friends

Don’t worry what your peers are up to. Chances are some are overworking and some are slacking. Either way, you should stick to your timetable as only you know how much you know, which will be different from everyone else.

Don’t study after 7pm the night before an exam

Sufficient rest is crucial to brain function, memory recall and knowledge retention.

Post-exam, stop yourself from looking up the answers!

Also resist the temptation to talk to your peers about your answers. Just stay focused on the rest of your exams. There's no point wasting time and getting hung up on what you can’t change!


When going through a really tough time during exam period last year the wellbeing team were absolutely amazing! I wouldn't have made it through the end of the year without them.

Sheffield Hallam University

Study Techniques to Get You Started

Just start somewhere and stop the procrastination!! Here are some simple starters:

1) Print out your exam timetable and stick it up everywhere. Nothing gets you going more than a sudden realisation or a deadline!

2) Start organising your notes module by module and separate lab and lecture work.

3) Organise your study area and remove distractions as this will really help keep you on track when you start to lose focus.

4) For each module, have a brief read through the module handbook and module specification and tick off how much you already know. Then colour code what you're comfortable with, what you need to refresh and what you don't know at all.

5) With the help of the module specifications, come up with a detailed revision timetable (including a plan for each day), prioritising the content you don't know and the weaker modules.


Within your plan you should include specific revision goals

These goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. 


Your revision plan should also be fluid

Build in some buffer time into your timetable as you won’t always be able to stick to your original plan. So you should adjust it slightly as you go along rather than getting overwhelmed later on down the line.


Include achievable rewards 

Creating a reward system will gratify your hard work and keep you motivated!


When studying, you should take at least a 5-10 minute break every hour 

Short breaks help maintain sharp focus. Set a timer and do a lap of your house, the library or do some squats!


Arrange study group sessions

If it helps you, group sessions can stimulate learning. If not, it’s still worthwhile teaching or explaining concepts to peers as this can help consolidate learning.


Practice any past exam papers you can get your hands on

If there aren’t any available or it's the first year of a module, contact your lecturers early for specimen questions.


It’s worth postponing pub visits until after your exams!

Whilst it’s good to have down time, recovering from a heavy night will take its toll. Also, having a night out planned for after your exams can act as something to look forward to when you’ve finished your last exam!


Set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode

Out of sight, out of mind really works! Put that phone away and get down to business!

Use all these tips wisely and try to apply as many as you can. However, don’t get overwhelmed, stay calm and remember that you can only do your best within the given circumstances.

Finally, have something to look forward to as the end is closer than you think! Perhaps this is a good time to plan to do that day out to a local attraction with some friends that you’ll wish you had made time for when you’re about to graduate.


Not sure what the exam arrangements are for your uni this year? Check out our article on universities' responses to COVID-19 here.

Leave a review on specific modules, which can help future students decide what to choose

Love the course, love the modules, exams are hard but any exam will be hard, that's life. I hope I pass, wish me luck!

Sheffield Hallam University


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