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Exam time tips

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read

What can I do or take to relieve stress?

Exam time is undoubtedly a stressful time. It’s important not to let stress affect your well-being. Make sure you are taking time out of studying to look after yourself, setting a block of time to exercise, rest, relax, and do something you enjoy. Make sure you drink fluids, eat well-balanced meals and get enough sleep. Taking a mental break gives your mind time to recover, so studying is more effective.

Exercising or practicing mindfulness are also great stressbusters and can positively affect your mental well-being. If you feel yourself panicking, pause, and breathe. Panicking does you no good and makes you feel worse. The best thing you can do is keep calm and level-headed. If you ever feel overwhelmed or unable to cope, talk to a friend, family member or even your doctor. You can also reach out to your school or university for support.

Is there anything that can enhance my brain power?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that has been found to improve alertness and improve cognitive function. The effect of caffeine will depend on your baseline mental alertness. For example, if you are sleep deprived and exhausted, a higher dose will be needed to provide an effect. Taking too much caffeine, especially if you are already alert and awake, can cause anxiety and jitters, followed by a caffeine ‘crash’, when a high amount of caffeine wears off too quickly, leaving you tired.

This can be prevented by taking lower levels of caffeine or a longer-releasing form such as guarana. Vitamin B1 and B12 can also help tiredness if these vitamins are lacking in your diet. Omega 3 and other fatty acids are thought to contribute to healthy brain function. Lastly, drinking plenty of water to maintain hydration is key. Your brain is 75% water! Supplements are not a miracle cure. Working hard and taking care of yourself are equally as important.

Study advice and tips

It is essential to have a clear study plan. Work out how many days you have until your exam and set a schedule for that time frame. Set a schedule with realistic goals each day or week, and don’t panic if you are behind schedule. It is only a guide. Your plan should be flexible.

If you are studying a topic and realize that your base knowledge is lacking, then adjust your schedule to study that first. You will learn more effectively that way. Also, remember that it is not about knowing everything. Learn the key topics and practice exam questions that will help you to pass. To help maintain focus, turn off your phone or remove yourself from any distractions.

Listening to background music without lyrics or singing may also help you focus. Concentration tends to falter over time, so take regular mental breaks. The Pomodoro technique is a popular method that consists of regular timed intervals of studying split between regular timed breaks, for example, a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of studying. Lastly, remember that an exam is not the end of the world and does not define your success in life. There may be other chances or routes to follow.

Utilize effective study techniques

In addition to having a clear study plan, incorporating effective study techniques can greatly improve your retention and understanding of the material. One helpful technique is creating flashcards to review key concepts and terms. Flashcards allow for quick and repetitive exposure to the information, aiding in memory consolidation. Another technique is teaching the material to someone else. Explaining concepts in your own words not only helps solidify your understanding but also exposes any gaps in your knowledge that need to be addressed. Additionally, practicing past exam papers or mock tests can familiarize you with the exam format and help identify areas that require further revision.

Ultimately it will depend on how you learn, and things to take into consideration is what type of learner you are:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic

Take care of your physical and mental well-being

During the intense exam period, it's crucial to prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Engage in regular physical activity, such as going for a walk or doing yoga, to release tension and boost your energy levels. Incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, to calm your mind and reduce anxiety. Ensure you get sufficient sleep each night to allow your brain to rest and consolidate information. Additionally, maintain a healthy diet rich in nutritious foods to provide your body and brain with the necessary fuel for optimal performance. Remember, taking care of yourself holistically contributes to your overall success during exams.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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