6 Tips for Managing Exam Stress 

A message for all senior secondary students …

There are five weeks to go before national school exams and if you are starting to get stressed about exam time – this is great news.

Why stress is good…url
Experiencing stress before exams is a good thing! Stress causes your adrenaline to pump and allows you to work longer hours and stay on task more. A 2013 study from Daniela Kaufer and Elizabeth Kirby at the University of California, Berkeley, found that small doses of stress can propel you forward and enable you to meet a challenge. As a time frame gets closer so the stress rises. This is natural and normal and managing it is important. Too much stress can have a negative effect on your memory. Of course memory is essential in an exam – ultimately you are required to remember what you have learned and how to apply your knowledge to answer the questions.

What to do in the next 5 weeks…

  1. Make a plan for the next 5 weeks – do not leave it to chance. Draw up a timetable and stick to it. Place in the important features of your next weeks, meal times, sports practice, church etc and add your study around these. If you can, you may wish to lessen your out of school activities for the next 5 weeks and then you can devote your time to them after the exams.
  2. Learn what you don’t know – Of all the tips the most important in the last few weeks is to concentrate on learning the information you don’t know. Going over what you know is a waste of time – it might make you feel good, however learning, is learning what you don’t know. Pull out your old tests, assignments, practice exam papers and learn the questions you got wrong. This sounds simple, and it can be hard yet is the MOST IMPORTANT tip. Ask your teachers to help clarify confusions, google other teachers lessons or search for study notes online to help.
  3. Study in small segments – The best tip is to study for 20 minutes and take a 5 minute break. This is especially useful if motivation is lacking or the content is difficult. During the 5 minute break, ensure you leave the room so your brain knows you are on a break. You might choose to stretch, get some fresh air, do a few star jumps, eat some brain food, drink a glass of water and quickly check your social networking sites. To help keep you on track download the iStudyAlarm available for all smart phones.
  4. Eat well – just as an athlete prepares for the big game or race, eating well in the weeks before your exams is imperative. Ensure you eat breakfast each day, as this will help minimise the bad stress. Eat smaller meals throughout the day, rather than big meals (that take a huge amount of energy to digest.) Decrease your sugar and caffiene intake and increase your water comsumption. Research shows eating an apple gives longer sustained focus than a cup of coffee.
  5. Relax– to manage high stress levels ensure you do something each day to relax. It may be as simple as 10 long slow breaths 2-3 times a day, some slow stretching, gentle swimming or jogging, meditation, yoga or any activity that helps you unwind and relax. Avoid screen time when relaxing as the changing images on the screen often cause your brain to go into a fight/flight state of high alert.
  6. Focus on the goal – Four weeks is such a short time in your life so focus on the big picture – the reason you are sitting the exams; to get yourself ahead in life, to get into the course you want next year or whatever your goal is. A helpful activity is to visualise yourself being successful in your exams.


For your FREE 27 Study Tips Poster, please email karen@spectrumeducation.com






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2010-10-04 14.38.18

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Published on Sunday, October 5th, 2014, under Study Skills

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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