Coping with exam stress

Story by Jeffery Murungweni

As students, we have so many things that can put us at unease, but of those diverse elements, only a few can really get us out of bed. One of these ‘elite few’ are examinations. Indeed, it is now that time of the year when we get to encounter that one element that is dreaded by many, which is writing examinations. It’s funny how for us to be at this stage in university, we have written so many examinations, yet each time we are to face another examination, fear takes a hold of us as if we have never written any exam. In this short piece, we would like to explore some proven methods of adequately preparing for these exams, and turn them from being the dreaded enemy to becoming a bridge we are all eager to pass through as we go up the academic ladder. One major point to note is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to studying. 

The first factor to consider when preparing for examinations is to have an idea of what the exam will be actually about. This means having an idea of the kind of questions that you may encounter, and the format in which the exam will be and this will help you know which material to read. This step involves you reaching out to your lecturer if you are not in the full loop of the examination. It also helps you to plan accordingly when it then comes to studying for that exam. This, therefore, leads to the second factor to consider: Planning for your study. You can actually spend less time studying for your exam if you start with a great game plan. Make a list of what topics you need to cover and when you’re going to cover them. Start your study schedule as early as possible and figure out how much time you’ll need to study each day to stay on track.

You can also do yourself a great service by gathering up all your class notes, quizzes, handouts and worksheets. Your previous homework will help you see what your teacher thinks is important. (Plus, you can learn from your past quiz mistakes). The work that we would have gotten as our coursework usually gives us a rough idea of what the examination will be like. So why not revise that material to familiarize yourself with the exam material? Obviously, you cannot pinpoint exactly what will come in the exam, but you have an idea of the kind of questions to come. This means that equipped with this information, you can study smarter. Instead of memorizing all your notes, prioritize what you’ll study. Start with what will definitely be on the test, then what will probably be on the test, and finally what might be on the test. That way, if you run out of time, you know you at least have the essentials covered. By starting with the toughest material first, you have time to ask your teacher questions. 

It is also crucial to remain motivated during this period of preparations. Sometimes we can wear ourselves out by not taking a break from reading. Sometimes a 10-minute break after an hour or two of reading can really do you good. Also, sleep is essential. It would surely defeat the purpose of doing consecutive all-nighters of studying and then failing to think properly in the exam because you’re sleepy. And lastly, do not forget the necessary equipment for the examination. It would also be pointless to study extra hard and forget the basic stuff you need for you to write the exam. I hope these tips will help you achieve your academic goals this semester. Wishing you all the best in the upcoming examinations, and remember, with the right preparation you will make it.