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10 great tips for exam prep and fighting exam stress

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This article is based on the free eBook "Strategies to fight exam stress"

Most of us are nervous before attending an exam. It could be because you are not prepared properly or because the result is important for your career. But then there are the ones among us that experience real exam stress and fear. No matter if you want to improve the way you are preparing for an exam or if you want to fight exam stress, the following tips might give you a hand.


Start the clock running

The clock runs from the second you commit yourself to pass a set of exams. So start to measure off the most important resource you have – time. Set the timing of the exam in your mind and make it part of your day. In your diary, start from two weeks before the exam date and count backwards to D-Day. In your private place of study, put up a clean sheet of paper listing the countdown.


Set yourself parallel targets

Once, maybe twice a month in the period leading up to the exams, set yourself physical challenges. Saving them for when the pressure is on.

It is true sport is one of the best ways to relax, but most competitive sport measures you against your opponent. Pure competition – which is what exams are about – measures your ability against fixed standards. Therefore consider setting yourself physical targets as well as studying targets. It could be targets such as to walk or maybe run from home to a local land mark and back again or say swim non-stop for 20 lengths at the local swimming pool. Repeat throughout in your mind – if I can overcome this…. I can pass my exams.


4 methods of revising

There are a number of ways to revise. Of course, you should decide yourself which method suits you best. Here are some suggestions:

  • Taking existing notes and writing them up again in shorter note-lets: The advantage is that by writing shorter notes you tend to concentrate on key issues and remember the subjects better.
  • Highlighting key details in manuals and textbooks: This can reduce what you really need to read again by up to 70%. If you use this method – use it miserly – highlight only key phrases or words, not whole sentences – reducing the text to brief notes.
  • Dictating notes using mobile phone or iPod Aps (applications) – playing them back on headphones on the bus and train – or by media connectors in the car: It’s useful here to picture yourself and the text book as you were dictating the notes. I have even been known to listen to myself and read the text in front of me at the same time for really complicated subjects.
  • Making up briefing cards – pick out keywords and underlining subject headings: Do not depend solely upon your own tutors for revision material. Get copies of other tutor’s manuals and revision notes. Buy some ‘expensive’ subject books and find time to read round the subject. It is not always new information which helps – equally important are new perspectives.


4 golden rules during the exam itself

  • Always give fully your calculated time for each question – no more – no less. To spend too little time on a may mean you have misread the question, which is as bad as spending more than your allowed time on a difficult question. In terms of difficulty – keep in mind for written answers that the first 60% of marks for a question are easiest – the next 30 % harder.
  • Remember that the remaining 10 % is reserved for the 2 hours spent by your tutors writing model answers – so initially target for 50 % -70 % on each question.
  • Presentation: Leave underlining to the end – when all questions have been answered –  but take first steps by leaving a clear line under each heading, and using a new page for each question.There are two reasons for this. Most papers are split up into sections and Markers generally only check one question. Secondly the gap may let you put in extra points later on.
  • By carefully watching your clock and occasionally comparing it to your wrist watch and the exam centre clock – make certain you have not spent too much time on any question!

And finally: Good luck with all that!


If you want to learn more about exam prep and fighting stress, read “Strategies to Fight Exam Stress & Achieve Success” written by Will Stringer.