NCS Grad Laura Kay writes about her experience with exams and shares her top five tips for those who are struggling with pressure and stress.
“Why do I have to learn about how a volcano is formed when I want to do drama at college?”
“Why am I being forced to achieve an A* when I’ve only ever managed to scrape a B?”
“Why are my teachers talking as if my exams results are going to haunt me for the rest of my life?”
Exams have always been a poignant part of school life, but there seems to be a lot more pressure on students than there used to be. Studies have shown that exams are the predominant cause of stress in young people; this towers over family life, health, and appearance. The tension that young people face during exam season has proven to be astronomical, but should they really worry about the outcome of their results? One anonymous student wrote:
“I am stressed and depressed mostly due to school. I can’t take this. I'm 16 and in Year 11. I find myself really stressed and pressured due to school. And there's nothing else I can do. I can't just leave because I have no idea what I want to do. I cry over school way too much. We are supposed to learn but all we are learning is how to memorise bull and write it under pressure. A skill we don't need.”
My experience with exams:
In high school, I never thought of myself as being very academic, as I struggled with subjects such as maths, science and geography. I’m sure that many students think this way about themselves too, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t clever! I seemed to battle with the predominantly theory based subjects, whereas in drama, textiles and English, I flourished! I’m clearly more of a practical person who enjoys being creative with their work, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! I remember being rather excited about my English examinations, as I knew that I would do well no matter what.
However, I also remember being up all night before my geography exams, as I absolutely loathed the subject. I chose geography as one of my options as I thought I’d be rather good at it – I was wrong. Information went in through one ear and out the other, which was infuriating! I then realised that I wasn’t going to be studying geography ever again after my GCSEs, so it released a tonne of pressure by focusing more on my favourite subjects. I still managed to attain a C grade in geography which was rather impressive for me, but I was just so relieved that it was all over! I’m not saying that you should abandon a subject that you dislike, but just remember that you may not be studying it ever again! Revise for your exams of course, but the main focus should be placed upon what you like to do as opposed to something you don’t.
Examinations at college were a little bit different for me than most students. As I had brain surgery in January 2016, I suffered from short-term memory problems for a few months afterwards. This meant that it was impossible for me to revise for my exams! It was an utter struggle, as I couldn’t remember what I’d read only moments after reading it. This was an extremely rare case, but I still managed to attain overall pass grades in my subjects! If I can do it with short-term memory loss, then you can too!
My advice to those struggling with exam pressure is:
1. Don’t go crazy with revision
Yes, revision is important to achieve a good grade, but don’t go overboard with the amount of work you do! The average attention span of a healthy teenager is 20 minutes, so don’t burden yourself with hours and hours of revision in one go! Take breaks, treat yourself, and hang out with friends and family! Set yourself a goal for the day e.g. revise one area of physical geography, and focus mainly on that as opposed to studying many subjects at once.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘How will I have time to exercise when I’ve got all this work to do?’ Well, I managed to go to dance classes for six hours a week whilst studying for my GCSEs! I understand that it may be at the very bottom of your priority list, but exercise is crucial to help keep your brain healthy and active!
3. Eat healthily
Eating healthy is such an important aspect of life, and even more important whilst studying. I remember putting on a lot of weight during my revision sessions, as I would comfort eat due to stress. I know that it’s difficult sometimes to eat an apple as opposed to a bag of crisps, but it will truly keep you more alert whilst you study!
4. You’re smarter than you think
Even though you might struggle with certain subjects, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t clever. Don’t put yourself down when you’re faced with an impossible task, you’ll succeed in other areas!
5. Remember it’s not the end of the world
I know its cliché, but it truly isn’t the end of the world if you don’t achieve your target grade in an exam. Sure, it might feel a little rubbish at first, but your results aren’t going to haunt you for the rest of your life! Trust me, life can take you on a completely different journey than what you might’ve expected, so please don’t despair about your results! It’ll all work out in the end.
I wish you all the best of luck with your studies, and I hope you take away some of my advice and information to help!