How To Deal With Exam Stress - Sophie, NCS Grad

ncs 15/05/2017

Exam stress, like any type of stress or anxiety, can feel suffocating but it can also be a driving force to make you do better. There’s an increasing pressure to do well and it's so easy to forget that good exam results aren't the be-all and end-all in life.

Firstly let me tell you a little about my experience with exams and stress. When I did my GCSEs, I had aspirations of going to the top grammar school in my local area. Like many people, I felt significant pressure to get A*s as that was perceived to be the only way I could succeed. I think the extreme stress stopped me from reaching my full potential in my exams. I was anxious about disappointing myself, my parents and feeling like an outcast from my friends. When initially choosing my GCSEs, I tried to have a balance between subjects I enjoyed and subjects that would make me ‘look smart’. Due to exam stress, I felt I prioritised revising maths and science, which were my weaker subjects, when I could’ve spent longer studying for French and German.

After my GCSEs, I stayed on at my school’s sixth form rather than attend a competitive grammar school – I slightly missed the entry requirements. I learned that I was better off in a relaxed atmosphere as opposed to the stress and pressures of a results driven environment. What I've learned during my time in sixth form is that it's never too late to turn things around for yourself if you want to get good grades. Now at A level, I'm taking three subjects I thoroughly enjoy, with offers from top universities to study a subject I love next year.

It's important that stress doesn’t take over your life – balance is key. Numbers and letters on a results sheet do not define your worth, and I think that's really easy to forget when there’s so much pressure from parents, school and even ourselves. Sixteen is a young age to have the weight of your entire future on your shoulders, but that's how things are and we need to find ways of coping with this stress rather than letting it overpower you.

Here are some tips and reminders that have helped me deal with my stress, and hopefully can help you too:

  • Remember exam results are not everything.
  • Your results do not define you.
  • Start revising early when you still have lots of time and you can still ask teachers for help.  
  • When you’re feeling really stressed, do something active or creative that’ll distract you from the stress.
  • Try to make revision as fun as possible – sounds hard but it's really easy. All you need is some paper and sharpies, maybe use drawings, big writing and colours to help you revise.
  • For me, I always like to go out and do something active. Going on a short walk or swim has always helped me take an effective break from stress.