Preparing for exams

Prepare for examsWhilst revising for exams, students can experience an unhelpful level of stress. A small amount of stress can be positive and can contribute to good psychological preparation. However, when experiencing too much physical or mental strain the body pumps adrenalin which can bring on feelings of anxiety and tension and can have a negative impact on performance.

Being fully prepared is the most effective way to overcome stress and anxiety about exams.

It is also possible for you to take some simple steps to help improve the chances of you doing well and achieving your full potential. Here are some ways in which you can help yourself and possibly take the opportunity to adopt some new habits.

Tips for preparing for exams

Get a good night’s sleep

If you are tired, it can be more difficult to concentrate and absorb information.

  • Aim for nine hours of sleep or enough sleep so that you wake up refreshed and alert for the day.
  • Allow for some quiet time before going to bed and avoid intense study or computer games.
  • Wind down and relax by having a bath, listening to music or reading a book you enjoy.
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine such as tea, coffee and energy drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid bright lights in the evening,
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • When you get up, open the curtains or blinds.
  • A warm milky drink can be comforting and help when getting to sleep.
  • Use ear plugs if necessary
  • If you wake in the night get up and do something before returning to bed, tossing and turning will not help
  • If you wake in the night with something on your mind, write down your thoughts and a list of actions for the following day to resolve

More information can be found at:

Eat well


Food can affect how you feel and think, it can influence alertness and the ability to concentrate.

  • Plan your meals; go shopping to ensure food is easily accessible at home.
  • Eat little and often, aim to have three meals a day as well as mid morning and mid afternoon snack.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Choose foods which are low in sugar.
  • Choose foods which are low in glycaemic load such as granary bread, brown rice wholemeal pasta.
  • Choose whole foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Include foods which are high in essential fats such as nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish.
  • Minimise the amount of deep fried food.
  • Select food which is free from chemical additives or colourings.
  • Avoid fast food and takeaways.
  • Have your 5 fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Boost your iron intake.
  • It is important to remain hydrated – aim to drink 1.5 litres a day, avoiding sugary and caffeinated drinks.
  • Don’t eat at your desk.

Some good snacks:

  • Banana
  • Dried dates
  • Oatcakes, cheese and apple
  • Low sugar cereal bar or sesame snap
  • Dried apricots, Brazil nuts, almonds
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Hard boiled egg, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery
  • Beans on toast
  • Whole wheat toast with Marmite

More information can be found at:

Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a natural chemical found in tea leaves, coffee beans, cacao (the stuff used to make chocolate), and cola nuts (the plant that gives cola soda its flavor). Caffeine has been in foods that humans eat and drink for hundreds of years. Today, caffeine is found in many common foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, hot cocoa, soda, chocolate, and some medicines.

When humans drink or eat caffeine, it acts as a stimulant. Many people feel that caffeine increases their mental alertness. Higher doses of caffeine can cause anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and the jitters. Caffeine can also interfere with normal sleep and the ability to concentrate and in some cases heart rhythm can be affected. If you are stressed or anxious, caffeine can make these feelings worse.

Caffeine can be avoided by not taking products such as Pro Plus and Red bull which have a high Caffeine content and by selecting decaffeinated tea, coffee and soft drinks.

More information can be found at:

Avoid alcohol

There are a number of risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption.  More specifically in relation to revision and exams, alcohol may help you to feel relaxed but at a serious cost. Alcohol can have an amnesic effect – you forget things. Alcohol is not selective in what it helps you to forget. During exam times forgetting is exactly what you don't need to do!

More information can be found at:

Be active

Be activeApart from keeping you calm, exercising also increases the rate of blood flow around your body, and to the brain as well. This can really help you to think more clearly, and to learn better.

It doesn't really matter whether you cycle, dance, swim, play tennis, kick boxing, or do anything else as long as it's your whole body you're exercising. If you don’t usually participate in sport activities try going for a brisk thirty minute walk. Focus on letting go of body tension.

Enjoy a reward and have some fun

concentrationDon’t overdo it, studying for hours without a break will tire you and ruin concentration. Take frequent short breaks while you are working

Whilst working hard, revising and doing exams it is important to have some fun and to reward yourself for achieving what you set out to do. Motivation can be helped if you have something to look forward to.

Remember – it is perfectly normal to experience a small amount of stress and anxiety.  However, if you feel out of control there are people you can talk to.

Where to access advice and support if you feel things are not going as you would expect.

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