Uni finals are stressful because… well… they’re your finals. But they don’t have to be, especially when you think that by now you have completed hundreds of exams.
You’ve had plenty of practice so far and it’s got you to where you are today. You are an academic heavyweight champion, and you’re now in the final round. What’s going to make you win in the ring is handling the pressure. Here are eight tips on how to make your finals a knockout.
1. Believe you can do it
Feeling confident and self-assured will help you keep a lid on exam anxiety. “Self-belief is a major contributor to academic success” says Ilham Sebah, PhD student at the University of Greenwich. “Believe that you have the potential to do exceptionally well,” adds Sebah, who is currently researching how students cope with the stress of university studying.
Habits like focusing too much on the final grade, constantly bullying yourself about your ability to do well and predicting the exam papers will be too hard are all sure-fire ways to send you into a panic the moment you walk into the exam room.
Instead, focus on what you need to learn and think of your exams as your opportunity to demonstrate how you’ve become an expert in your studies over the last three years. This will not only fuel your confidence, but also empower you to perform at your best.
2. Have a revision strategy
Don’t start your revision without making a plan first. “Planning is important because there’s obviously a ton of material to get through,” says TSR member TheDefiniteArticle. “You need to make sure you’re achieving the necessary standard.”
Be your own coach and be firm with yourself about what needs to take priority. “Make sure you work on the topics you enjoy the least first,” says Keele University graduate Jodie Pryce. “Leaving it to the last minute will just get you worked up.”
3. Complete your exam drills
Take your brain to the mind gym every day by creating your own personal exam drills. “Use keyword revision aids and practice timed writing,” says Digby Warren, associate professor and head of the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at London Metropolitan University.
Regularly working through past exam papers under timed conditions will help you to get your head into exam mode. That way you’ll feel more at ease on your big day.
4. Food is fuel
Remember not all calories are born equal. You’re going to be using a lot of brain power so you need to keep your sugar levels steady. Wholesome, balanced meals will give you increased levels of stamina to smash through your exam drills. Skipping meals will only fuel your anxiety, as will sugar crashes from working your way through a whole packet of chocolate biscuits. Yup, they might be tasty but they're not the kind of grub that’s going to fuel a 2:1.
What you need is fresh fruit and veggies, beans, lentils and grains. And don’t forget your protein! Veggies and legumes are full of fibre and act as speed bumps by slowing down your digestive system which means the natural sugars are released at reduced speed. This mean you’ll feel energised for longer and won't be tempted to end a revision session early for a sugary fix.
5. Don’t cancel on your tribe
Isolating yourself from your mates because you want to focus on your revision is a bad idea. Humans are happiest when they’re surrounded by their friends. “Socialising is important, you’ll be miserable otherwise," says TheDefiniteArticle. "That will sap your motivation like nothing else.”
Feeling resentful towards your study because it stops you from enjoying yourself will only tempt you to procrastinate which is a no-win situation. Be good to yourself and make sure you hang out with your pals for at least an hour a day, even if that’s just cooking a meal and eating together.
6. Burn baby burn
Working towards your finals is not an excuse to pass up on the gym. TSR member and graduate Oilfreak1 ditched the workouts to make more revision time but says "the hours saved from not hitting the gym were not worth the overall sluggishness I felt as a result”.
Hunching over your desk for hours is going to build tension in your shoulders and upper back and it’s going to lock your hips. Prioritise shaking it off in the gym, or spend time opening and unlocking your body in a yoga class. Sweating and breathing will help you feel revitalised, it’s also going to free up some space in a clogged-up mind. Taking a break to get physical will give your brain some time to file away all of your revision into your long-term memory which means, when you get going again, you’ll have a fresh mind-set.
If gym and yoga aren’t your thing, simply going out for a walk is a quick and easy way to give yourself a break. Both your body and mind will benefit.
7. Go green
Try revising outside. “A garden is a great place to spend the day because you don’t have the feeling that you’ve been cooped up inside,” says TSR member Fox Corner. Again it will help prevent you feeling resentful towards your revision.
However, this probably isn’t the place to do your daily exam drills. Use this time instead to top up your revision, like when you’re reading through your notes or a textbook.
8. Pet a pooch
Unless you’re allergic to animal fluff, stroking a cute animal could make you a very happy bunny. “Research has shown that playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax you,” says Jordan Kirkwood, vice president of education and welfare at Aston University. That research has led to hundreds of Aston students easing the stress of exams by playing with Labrador puppies. So if you're really stressed out, you know what to do. Down to the pet shop...
|More help on TSR:
How to revise for your uni exams
The magic formula to smash your exams