How to stop obsessing about your exam

Getting over a bad one

Worried about exams

We’ve all had an exam which didn’t go as great as we’d hoped, but how do you stop obsessing over it? 

In a world of social media, unofficial mark schemes and seemingly endless opportunities to talk about your exams it can be difficult to stop thinking about what happened.

Here’s how to stop obsessing and not allow one bad exam to ruin the whole bunch.

learn from your exam

Learn from your exam – then forget about it

Bad exams happen. The most important thing you need to do is learn from them, so you don’t make the same mistake again. Give yourself a quick debrief – “work out what went wrong, and analyse why you didn't do so well,” suggests studentbug. 

If some surprise questions came up which no-one could have prepared for, don't get demoralised. Although it can be really demotivating and you might feel like all your revision was a waste, you need to accept the situation, as it's now outside of your control. Don't spend any more of your energy on feeling frustrated: take a deep breath, put it to the back of your mind and re-channel that emotion into smashing the rest of your exams. 

If you panicked in the exam then reflecting on it can be really helpful. Write out where you struggled, and give yourself a solution to the problem. Realised you didn’t read the question properly? Solution: make sure to underline important key words on the exam paper so you stay on track. Did you panic? Solution: Practice some deep breathing exercises.

Getting things out on paper in this way helps you to process your feelings. You’ll also feel better knowing how to deal with hurdles in the future. 

Identified where your problems were and figured out how you’ll avoid them next time? Good. Now you’ve got that written down, don’t think about it anymore. 

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Change of scene

Get a change of scene

You’ve been stuck inside revising or been in exam halls for weeks. Changing your environment will help get things off your mind. Don’t go back to revision straight away as you’ll be reminded of your exam. 

“I normally go to the gym and pound my frustrations out on a treadmill” says fionaflowers. Going for a walk, doing something nice or just “lounging around the house with a cuppa and watching a DVD” like ocookmate are all great ways to forget about exams.

Leave the internet alone for a while. The Student Room is massively useful, but stressing yourself out by reading through the exam discussion thread for the umpteenth time isn’t going to help. Take a break and go do something completely unrelated to exams. 

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Let it go

Let it go

Finally, make a conscious effort to let go. “You can’t change anything from previous exams so why worry?” says The_TSR_Dunce. “Look forward and not back,” says Greatleysteg. Dwelling on one exam will only be detrimental. 

“Try and think about the bigger picture,” says Abeh. This is just one exam – it doesn’t define your ability, so don’t let it affect the rest of them. “Think of the grades you got in all your other modules; this one was just a blip.” says Greatleysteg.

If you need to, you can engage in some cathartic activities. “Vent if you must to a family member,” suggests Yusuf.T.

“I systematically tear up every piece of revision I did for that exam,” says josilaphina. If you don’t want to go that far, you can ceremoniously put away all your revision notes into storage. This will help you to draw a line under that exam and move on to the next one.

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