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Managing end of year exam stress!

Written by Jenny Scott on 11 May 2023

I still have a reoccurring nightmare about my A level finals. I turned up for what I thought was my economics final, but it wasn’t, it was maths. I didn’t even have a calculator. After a momentary sob in the toilets, I took a few deep breaths, and found my way to the exam room, borrowing a calculator on route.

That day, I learned a lot about myself - some things I needed to improve on and other aspects of my character that helped me get through it. Since then, I have always managed to go to the correct exam at the right time - but more importantly I knew that even if I made the same mistake again things would be okay.

Here’s my top Aspire tips to putting your best foot forward when it comes to exams.

  • Get organised and write down all the key dates times and locations for each exam.
  • Keep yourself organised with a structured weekly plan for study. But think quality over quantity - Parkinson’s Law says that work will expand to fill the time available for its completion. Setting limits on study time will be your friend! Try a Pomodoro timer like the one in the Aspire app or set yourself an alarm for a period of deep focused study.
  • Focus on Core concepts – but at a deeper level. Try writing them down, making them into a story or using acronyms. Make sure you understand the core concepts well before expanding elsewhere.
  • Find out what you do know – and study what you don’t. Don’t waste time making notes on stuff you already know!
  • Consider Writing by hand. A 2014 study showed that students who wrote notes by hand retained information much more effectively than those who typed them. Write in your own words, use colour, highlight key information and explain to others your understanding. This will help embed the information into your brain!
  • Build wellness into your study schedule including times to have proper breaks. Exercise can be a fantastic tool to help when it comes to revision. It gives your brain time to consolidate the learning it has done and move the knowledge from the short-term memory into the long term.

Lastly remember to breathe. Using breathing exercises just before opening that exam paper or walking into the exam room can be a great tool to help keep you calm and collected. Practice breathing in for four seconds, hold for seven and blow out for eight. Repeat until you feel calmer. 

Log in or request access to a demo version of Aspire to find more information on thriving during exams.