Top tips to help beat exam stress

11th May 2018

Blog by Keir McKechnie, SAMH Mentally Healthy College Coordinator  

It’s that time of the year again where students are revising and sitting exams.  This can be a stressful time for students and parents alike, but remember it’s normal to feel a little bit of stress. This can help you focus; though too much of it can make you feel overwhelmed or out of control and can make it harder for you to take in information.

When we feel stressed, the fight or flight response is activated. This may cause fatigue, difficulty in getting up, poor appetite and increased irritability if maintained for long periods of time.

How can you beat exam stress? Here are a few useful tips…

How and where you work

Think about the time of the day that you feel most alert and the place that makes you focus and where you feel calm. Why not alternate your work space to keep revision fresh and to avoid boredom? 

Have an early night’s sleep

Revising late at night can make it very hard for you to get up for the actual exam. Ensure you have done some revision before dinner and stop revising one hour before you go to sleep, so that you have a chance to switch off.

Try not to compare

Avoid comparing your knowledge with friends before or after the exam. Just because they appear to know more, does not mean that they actually do, or that they will do better in the exam. Comparing will only make you or your friends worry more about things you can’t change

Eat well

A quick fast food fix may look tempting when you are up late revising. However, your body and brain need proper fuel for revision. Eat fresh fruit and veg, swap chocolate snacks for high protein nuts, and try not to consume too much caffeine to ensure good quality sleep.

Treat yourself

Make sure you plan in revision breaks to rest your brain. Treat yourself with something you enjoy; go for a walk or watch 20 minutes of your favourite TV show. It will motivate you to concentrate on your revision.


It can seem like you don’t have the time to exercise when you are revising, but it actually makes you more productive afterwards. It helps you to de-stress and releases feel-good endorphins. Try walking, going to the gym, or for a jog.

Recognise stress signals

If you are feeling stressed, take a break and talk to someone. If you feel yourself starting to panic, stop what you’re doing and try a breathing technique; breathing slowly and deeply. Do this for a few minutes until you begin to feel calmer.

Remember, you have worked hard and you can’t change anything after you have sat the exam.  
Yes, it is great to do well in exams, but exams aren’t the only thing that will help you succeed in life, equally important factors include your attitude, work ethic or ability to communicate well.

Read SAMH’s guide on ‘How to cope with student life.'