Exam Stress-What It Is and How To Manage It

Exam Stress

Sooner or later in life you will have to take an exam. It normally starts at school but when you leave there then there is College or University both of which want to test your progress by way of exams.

Then there are professional qualifications you can only obtain by taking their exams.

And as you get older you just know that the next set of exams is going to be harder than the last.passing exams without stress

Whether you pass or fail will influence how you think about the test and the consequences that will follow.

It is no wonder that people get stressed before any exam.

Learning something in general and studying for an exam are two very different things.

When you study for an exam, the goal is generally to pass the exam – not to master the subject. So the easy way is to pick the brain of the examiner and then write what the examiner wants to see.

You then cram all the necessary info into your short term memory.

Such an approach will ensure you pass the exam, but it won’t help you retain much useful information in the long term.

A big part of exam stress is caused by confusing the long term goal (mastering the subject) and the short term goal (passing the exam).

So you need to first clarify in your mind what you are really after.

Recognise and Control Exam Stress

To reduce exam stress, relax as much as you can before studying (both physically and mentally).

Your goal is to run as much data through your brain as you possibly can in the time you have allotted.

Your subconscious mind is better at retaining massive amounts of data – so put it to work.

In the long term memory your understanding has converted data into information, but in the short term memory you just have the data which means that presenting your facts in the exam may not be answering the question being set.

So much depends on what associations you have formed in your mind. If you have never learned a subject then it is unlikely you will ever pass an exam in it and so stressing about it is pretty pointless.

Master Exam Stress and dont let it get to You

The key to handling exam stress is to understand the process, do all you can, and not worry or even care too much.

study without stressEasy to say but can you do it?

Stressing out reduces your mental capabilities and is counter-productive: so instead be confident in your abilities. If you’re relaxed, the conscious and subconscious parts of your mind interact better, reducing the risk that you will freeze up or make a mistake.

And it all starts with your revision techniques which when done properly will help reduce stress and allow you to take the exam in a positive way.

Exam Revision Helps Exam Stress

What is Important in Exam Revision

Actually this is a trick question because finding out what you don’t know is more important than repeating to yourself what you do know.

Usually your mind will shy away from this and tell you that what you do not know about a subject is greater than what you do know.

This leads to a stress reaction and panic can set in.understanding and managing exam stress

But what your mind then does is to associate that emotional response to that particular subject. So whenever you think about that subject you start to feel anxious.

And that is fatal to your prospect of passing any exam.

Revision means to Re-Look.

In other words if you have never learned the subject then you can never look at it again in your mind simply because it was never put there to begin with.

When to start Exam RevisionThe best time to revise anything is immediately after the lesson whilst it is all fresh in your mind.

But we are all human and we prefer to do other things like having a life outside academia.

So we put things off.

We have other things to do and if we found the subject difficult or boring then it is easier to forget about it.

Subjects we enjoy are much easier for some reason and that enjoyment usually comes from the passion and ability of the teacher to communicate and inspire.

How true it is that all adults remember a good teacher and enjoyed the subject whilst those parts of any syllabus that were badly taught have slipped from their minds.

So if you struggle with or do not enjoy or find boring any subject then you will try anything to avoid having to think about it whereas the ones you enjoy seem to come far more naturally to you.

The trick is to change your way of thinking towards the stuff you dont know and find ways of making yourself enjoy the subject.

Divorce the teacher from the subject in your mind and start to discover how that subject works. Then when exam revision time comes round it becomes so much easier and the exam itself is not a scary obstacle to overcome.

Then there is the big question as to HOW you go about revising any subject. Well here is one way

Revision Cards

What are Revision Cards

They are also known as Flash Cards.

You will often see students with a wadge of cards and watch them read one then look away and start mumbling.

They are using the cards to revise and test themselves that the information is stored in their brain.

We all learn in different ways but the way we are taught remains very much the same irrespective of whether you are ASL or VSL.

Until the education authorities accept that different learning techniques are used by different individuals then some students will always be left behind……or considered thick.

ASL is Audio Sequential Learning and is usually the way we are taught. By listening to an explanation we grasp the concept and are able to repeat it.

VSL is Visual Spacial Learning and this is not the usual way of teaching.

The difference is something like the fact that some people have brains wired so that they like to be told something (ASL) whereas others prefer to be shown something (VSL).

left right brain testWe are all in the 90% grey area where we use both but one works better for some than the other.

How to Use Revision CardsNot everyone likes the idea of Revision Cards and so refuse to use them.


This is true of predominantly ASL people whereas they are great for VSL’s. They use different colours so that the brain remembers for example, orange cards have more important facts than yellow ones.

By condensing facts down to bullet points on individual cards and using colours to highlight specific keywords this is organising the information inside the brain in a way that works for you.

Only one side of the card is used so that the brain can recall the image of the card and more importantly the words that are written on it.

If the words went over to the other side then that would just create a different new image that would not be related or associated with the other side.

So try out revision cards and see if they work for you. If they do then you have found the way to make learning fun. If they dont then there is a different method for you which so far you haven’t found…..yet.

To help you discover the RIGHT way for you there is a course on this very topic which you can read about HERE