Exam Stress and Struggles



‘Realistic revision leads to peace of mind’

Matt Whyman


If you listen very closely you will be able to hear the sound of students across the country sighing mournfully at their desks or pulling at their hair in frustration. Yes, unfortunately now is the time of year that the humble student is plagued by revision stress and exam anxiety.


The carefree days of the summer holidays seem like a lifetime away and the impending doom of unending examinations hangs above the collective head of the Student Body. For many students the 3rd term of university life means a curb on social activity, an end to fun and having to endure weeks of headaches and distress. 


But fear not, as SCAN has been in contact with Matt Whyman, the agony uncle for TheSite.org. Matt is an experienced youth adviser, who has written for such stalwarts of the teen magazine industry as Bliss, 19 and B, and who has also written numerous novels and advice guides such as Unzipped: a toolkit for life. Matt talked to us about the best ways to maximise your time and your results whilst avoiding worrying, and even how to enjoy yourself whilst revising!


The main piece of advice that Matt imparted sounds simple, but to him holds the key to surviving the exam period. Matt said that preparation is crucial and that it is important to ‘set up a realistic revision plan, in which you have to look at the amount of time you have, and divide it proportionally between your subjects’. To get the best out of your timetable there are two key factors that need to be accommodated, these are that ‘the plan must be written down on paper for you to see, and that you have to factor in regular breaks’. 


Matt acknowledged that each person is different, and will realise how best to work out a schedule for themselves, however his model timetable would involve ‘around 45 minutes revision, followed by a 15 minute break’. He stressed that the quality of both the revision time and the break were important. ‘The work has to be 45 minutes without distraction; it’s no use having your attention diverted by the Internet or the T.V’. Once you have successfully completed this 45 minute stint then you could ‘kick back in front of the Simpson’s with a cuppa and a chocolate biscuit’. Matt’s advice was founded on the idea that ‘it is very easy to get stressed, and therefore ensuring you have a timetable that maintains the right balance of work and rest is absolutely essential’.


Matt explained that a good revision plan based on the 45-minute model had multiple benefits. ‘This plan takes away the worry of how much work to do and when, you know how prepared you are, and it won’t overwork your head’. We were told that to fully appreciate this plan, you had to accept that ‘revision is often about sacrifice, but it is sacrifice over a relatively short period of time which will pay off in the end’. Matt however did suggest that instead of sacrificing your social life/sports/hobbies completely, you could instead ‘put them into your timetable as rewards for working hard’. ‘Timetabling rewards means that you learn how to creatively manage your time, revision can be flexible, but it must remain realistic’.


The website that Matt Whyman works for is an award-winning site run by the young person’s charity YouthNet. The site has numerous experts and knowledgeable journalists writing for them on a variety of topics. The sort of hints and advice found at TheSite.org include 1) ‘If you feel as if your mum and/or dad is on your back, then talk to them. Clear the air to clear your head’ and 2) ‘Choose a place in the house to revise where you won’t be distracted’.


There are many places that anyone suffering from exam stress can turn to within the University system. If you feel that your worries would be better dealt with by talking face to face with someone then there are appointed members of every colleges’ JCR, as well as University tutors, Nightline, and the University even has its own Counselling Service which is prepared to help with academic issues. Matt did acknowledge that whilst the medium of the internet is perfect for people who want quick advice or who don’t want to talk face to face about problems, there can be no better stress relief than to chat to someone directly about their problems and concerns.

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