5 ways to stay calm and focused during your January exams

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Photo: Nick Aldwin/ Flickr.

Now that Christmas and New Year are over, it’s unfortunately time to focus on our January exams. As students, we all know revising can be really stressful, so here are five helpful tips on how to stay calm during the exam period.

1 – Split it up

Set yourself targets to cover certain topics on specific days. Breaking down the material makes it easier to cover, and allows you to go into more detail with your revision. It also makes it a little less daunting knowing that you only have to cover a single lecture at a time, rather than 6 months and a whole 400-page-book’s worth of material.

Splitting it up into smaller chunks enables you to take regular breaks too. The ideal revision time is around 30-45 minutes, with a ten minute break in between. By doing this, you’ll remain focused and engaged in the material. There’s no use staring at a book for three hours if you’re only going to absorb two pieces of information!

2 – Organisation  

Keep your notes well organised so you can find topics quickly when you go back to review them later. Filing your notes by topic will make it simpler if you find yourself stuck on a particular section during past papers. It will be much easier to go back and review what you don’t know.  

Using an organised work space is also a big part of productive revision. Remove any distractions from the area, and make sure it’s clean and uncluttered. It’s important to have enough space to spread everything you need around you, without having to constantly rummage through three layers of rubbish before you find your pen.

3 – Look after yourself 

Drink lots of water! Your brain is 80% water and needs to be hydrated in order to function at its best. 

Eating healthy food can also be beneficial. Fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries have all been proven to improve concentration and memory. Snack on some of these instead of crisps, chocolate or sweets when you’re revising and you could really increase your mental capabilities!

Getting a good night’s sleep is also really important. Being well rested for your exam will let your brain work at full capacity. You don’t want to walk into the hall feeling groggy or distracted, it doesn’t bode well for your concentration!

4 – Share 

You won’t be the only person taking the exam, so find someone else sitting it and ask them how they’re revising. Talk to them about techniques and how to answer questions. It might feel like you’re competing for the best grades, but by sharing your ideas you’ll probably receive a good tip in return, or have something you overlooked brought to your attention!

It can also be helpful to explain your answers to someone not on your course. Discussing your topics with someone who hasn’t studied the same material, can help you to understand your course in much greater detail. You have to know your topic more thoroughly to be able to explain it to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about.  

5 – Relax

Exams aren’t worth freaking out over. They can be scary and it’s hard to keep calm as they draw closer, but they aren’t the be all and end all of your degree. One bad result won’t mean you’ll fail, and in the end, you can only try your best. A really useful exercise to relax is to breathe in for 5 beats, hold your breath for 7 beats, and breathe out for 8. Repeating that two or three times can really help to calm you down, no matter how anxious you are.

Stay calm, take big, deep breaths, and go get those exams!

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