Exam season can be stressful and challenging for a college student, and it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform well. While some stress can help you stay motivated and focused, too much can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. The stress of revising a lot of material in a short amount of time or struggling to understand course material can add to this pressure, making it difficult to manage.

Dealing with stress during exam season can be difficult, especially when you’re already under pressure to succeed. With an estimated 20-50% increase in the number of university students seeking help for mental health issues related to studies, it’s clear that students are under more pressure than ever before.

Whether exams are a breeze or a daunting experience, managing stress and finding ways to help eliminate the risk of burnout is important. In this blog, we’ll share some handy tips for managing stress and studying effectively during exam season, so you can perform at your best without sacrificing your well-being.

So, What Does Exam Stress Look Like?

Exam stress affects most college students in varying ways. While some may experience only mild anxiety and nervousness, others may experience more severe symptoms such as panic attacks, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. In some cases, exam stress can even lead to burnout or depression.

Here are some common symptoms and signs of exam stress to look out for:

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Stomach aches
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Muscle tension or stiffness
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation or interest
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Procrastination or avoidance
  • Excessive worrying or overthinking
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Substance abuse or reliance on drugs or alcohol
  • Losing touch with friends

Why Do Students Experience Exam Stress?

Exam stress is a common experience for college students of all ages and backgrounds. But why do you feel this way? What triggers exam stress, and why do some students experience it more intensely than others?

Here are some of the reasons why college students may experience exam stress:

1.   Pressure to Succeed

Many students feel pressure to perform well on exams, whether from parents, teachers, peers, or themselves. The desire to achieve good grades or get into a top university can create a lot of stress and anxiety.

2.   Fear of Failure

The fear of failing exams can be a significant source of stress for students.

3.   Time Limitations

The pressure to revise a large amount of material in a short period can be overwhelming for many college students. Time management is crucial to exam preparation, but balancing coursework, revision, and other responsibilities can be challenging.

4.   Lack of Control

Feeling out of control or uncertain about the exam process can create a lot of stress. For example, not knowing what to expect on the exam, or feeling unprepared for certain topics or questions, can be a significant source of anxiety.

5.   Personal Issues

Students dealing with personal issues such as illness, family problems, financial stress, or relationship issues may find it challenging to focus on studying and exams. These personal issues can also contribute to exam stress.

7 Tips for Managing Stress and Studying Effectively

Here are some practical tips for managing stress and studying effectively for your college exams:

1.   Create a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve productivity during exam season. Use a planner or an app to plan your study sessions and set specific goals for each session.

You’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to stay on track by dividing your study tasks into small parts.

2.   Set Priorities When Revising

The dates of each exam and the subjects that must be covered should be listed in a table. You can use this to decide how much time to spend on each exam topic and when to begin revising. As you complete each topic, check it off your list to feel a sense of progress.

3.   Take Breaks

Taking breaks is essential for your mental and physical health. Giving yourself regular breaks throughout the day is important, whether it’s a quick walk around the block or a coffee break with friends. Taking breaks can help you refocus, reduce stress, and improve productivity.

4.   Practice Mock Exams at Home

Practicing is one of the best ways to overcome exam stress. It helps you know what to expect on the day, such as the type of questions you are likely to face and how best to approach answering them. Try finding past exam questions or similar questions assigned by your lecturers and practice answering them.

5.   Stay Active

Staying active and exercising is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Make time for physical activity, whether going to the gym, taking a yoga class, or walking in the park. Exercise can help reduce anxiety, boost energy levels, and improve overall health.

6.   Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is vital for your mental and physical health. Lack of sleep can increase stress, impair cognitive function, and reduce productivity. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night, and establish a regular sleep routine to help you relax and fall asleep faster.

7.   Eat Well

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for your brain and body to function properly. Make sure to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, and include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein in your diet. Avoid sugary and processed foods, leading to energy crashes and poor concentration.

Exam Season Stress | The Bottom Line

Staying connected with friends, family, and supportive peers can help to reduce stress and boost your mood. Make time for social activities, whether a study group, a coffee date, or a movie night with friends.

Sharing your experiences and feelings with others can help alleviate exam stress and provide community and support. So, stay positive, stay focused, and stay motivated!