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It’s hard to take pleasure from the first signs of spring when you know what the cheerful weather brings with it. Exams. That warm feeling from the sun shining down on your face grows uncomfortably smothering as the nervous sweats set in. You realise that the last few weeks have been and gone like that and now Hell is just around the corner. No one enjoys this feeling and yet, year after year, it comes around again – but you’ve gotten this far, and you can’t give up now. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help survive the dreaded build up to exams.
- Start preparing early: For a lucky few, cramming does work but for most of us, we have to take the scenic route to success. A little bit of panic is healthy, but leaving it too late has your brain screaming in overdrive so nothing is gonna go in. Start preparing a couple of weeks before your first exam, prioritise the stuff you’re most concerned about and work it out from there. This also means you have time to ask for advice from your mates and tutors if you need that little bit extra guidance.
- Work out how you work best: There’s no right way to study. Some people are most productive in the morning, for others it’s at 2am after downing half a litre of Lucozade. Maybe you need somewhere busy or maybe you need to lock yourself in your room all day and go MIA from your housemates for a bit. Try a few different things, to figure out what works best for you, to try and make your revision environment as comfortable as possible. Not only are you more likely to learn more, but you’ll be slightly more willing to return to it instead of endlessly procrastinating.
- Reward yourself little and often: Take little breaks every 25 minutes or so and then have a good hour or so for lunch if you can spare it. By little breaks, I mean checking your phone for 5 minutes, not scrolling through every form of social media for half an hour (which I am guilty of). Then you’ll have earned your break rather than drowning in a deep pool of shame for the whole time. After each exam, maybe get yourself a coffee or something, as well as a little ‘well done’ for getting one step closer to freedom.
- Eat properly: Okay, so making proper meals three times a day isn’t very realistic unless you’re insanely good at time management. However, you should at least try and eat a proper breakfast every day and a ‘home-cooked meal’ twice a week. Bulk-cooking a few weeks before exams and freezing the food in Tupperware is a nice idea, or there’s lots of recipes for quick and healthy meals online. When you’re stressed, you’re either going to want to eat all the junk food you can cram inside your mouth or eat nothing at all, but neither is going to make you feel any better. Eating well will mean you work well and feel less sluggish in general.
- Support network: Exam time can feel isolating. Everyone is stressed, snappy and feel like they have no time to socialise. Friends are the best support network you can find, and since you’re all going through similar things it’s nice to catch up and motivate one another to push through. Obviously, you won’t be able to go out to Sugar every night of the week, but taking an evening off or meeting up for a quick coffee to rant for a while will be really beneficial.
- Get out: You’ll go crazy if you don’t leave the library or your bedroom. It’s a certified fact. Everyone feels a bit weird during exam period, but going for a quick walk or going to the gym for an hour can really help get rid of some pent-up stress. You’ll feel way better for it.
- On exam day, don’t cram: Scanning a few notes is fine, anything more than that just isn’t worth the effort. What’s done is done and you need to walk in with a level head. Make sure you have everything you need, get there 15 minutes early and try not to think too much about what everyone else is saying or doing. You do you. Maybe listen to some music to get in the zone and remember to eat a good breakfast (NB: bananas are a lifesaver).
- Post-exam, celebrate properly: You’ve damn well earned it. Enjoy the taste of sweet, sweet freedom however you see fit. Drinking, partying, or eating till your body wants to shut down, whatever you want. You’ve made it!