It’s time for exam stress again

exam stress
Student life in Oxford

I usually get a lot of phone calls in March from students telling me it’s time for exam stress again. Experiencing stress in the run up to their exams. this year it has come early as I have been seeing students from GCSE, to A levels, to students in full throws of their Bachelor degrees and even a masters.

Having been a student myself at Oxford Brookes 30 years ago, I know how stressful that time is. We cut ourselves off from friends, family and fun because we need to focus on what could determine the rest of our life. The truth is that if the worst did happen then we can take them again. But what if we are taking them again. What if every exam whether it’s in the classroom or a practical demonstration of your skills makes you panic so much you can’t eat, feel sick, can’t sleep and can’t concentrate on what you’re meant to be doing. What if? Why should it time for exam stress AGAIN!?

Negatively forcasting

You can see the what if is actually us negatively forecasting the event. When we do this our brains naturally go into the fight of flight state. One of the reasons for this, is that it’s triggered by the part of the brain that’s meant to keep us safe, by negatively forecasting our subconscious is prompting us to come up with alternatives, but this part of the brain is not responsible for being creative and coming up with ideas, that’s the job of the pre-frontal cortex. When we worry that part of the brain has no chance to work because all the activity is happening to keep you safe – it’s a chicken and egg situation.

What to do?

Firstly make a time table which not only schedules in time to revise, but also allows for periods of rest, exercise and fun. All work and no play does make Jack a dull boy after all.

Get plenty of sleep, the brain sorts out memory whilst asleep and lack of it makes us forgetful.

Go over past exam papers.

Get someone to test you.

Turn off electrical devises such as tablets and smart phones that may distract.

Also see: Mobile distractions

And: Are phones making us less productive?