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Top tips for surviving the exam season

08 June, 2015Ryan Ciecko

No matter whether you are sitting GCSEs, A-Levels, end-of-year Uni exams or your Finals, this time of year can be tough. To help you make it through to the summer holiday light at the end of the examination tunnel, we’ve put together these handy tips.

These aren't revision tips, more suggestions to help you make sure that your mind and body are in as good a place as possible, both while you’re revising and on examination day. Ryan Ciecko - our Student Engagement Manager - is currently studying for an MA himself, and he has kindly shared some of his tactics too.

1. Plan ahead and get creative

It can all seem rather overwhelming at this time of year, so a good way to make the mountain seem that bit less steep is to break everything down into manageable chunks. “Before I start revising I always make a list of things to I need to know. It sounds silly, but you don’t want to get to a few days before an exam and realise you haven’t learnt one of the topics,” says Ryan. He also recommends making a revision timetable in order to help you prioritise your learning and suggests that using coloured pens and big sheets of paper can help to present information in easy-to-remember ways.

2. Eat well to learn well

You may feel like sitting at a desk all day going over your notes doesn’t use much energy, but our brains actually use about 20% of the total amount of energy our bodies use in a day, even if we’re not doing anything that requires much thinking. “Your brain will be working extremely hard, so you need to look after it. Make sure you have plenty of revision snacks!” says Ryan. It is especially important to eat healthily in the run-up to your exams: avoid takeaways and ready meals, and eating freshly cooked meals with a good balance of veg, carbs and protein. It is fine to snack, so long as it’s a healthy snack, so we’re talking an apple rather than a bag of crisps. Caffiene is off the menu, at least after 2 pm, to help ensure a good night’s sleep – leading us to…

3. Take a break

Tempting though it may be to study every minute of every hour, its important to give your brain some time off, so make sure to plan regular breaks into your days. The good news is that afternoon naps are positively encouraged, with research showing that even a ten minute snooze in between 2pm and 5pm can improve performance.

4. Get plenty of rest

Pulling an all-nighter may feel like the ultimate way to get lots done in a short space of time, but in reality starving yourself of sleep is just as disruptive as eating unhealthily. Make sure that you get to bed at a sensible hour: “I always try to make sure that I get the full eight hours,” Ryan boasts, the lucky devil. Its also important to unwind properly before trying to sleep, so avoid taking the books to bed with you, and try to cut out Facebook and Twitter in the half-hour before bedtime.

5. Change the scenery

Routine can be very beneficial, but sitting at the same desk day-in, day-out is likely to send you round the twist eventually. Try moving rooms, heading to the library or working in the garden for a while to give yourself a change of scene and stimulate those little grey cells.

6. Get some fresh air and some exercise

Its tough sitting inside all day with your nose in a book when its glorious and sunny outside, so you’ll be pleased to learn that a bit of fresh air is a great way to relieve stress and refresh your mind. Exercise will also help, and rather than making you sleepy, its liable to perk you up.

7. Work together

“Exams always make everyone pull together and help each other,” says Ryan, before adding:  ”Make use of the people around you.” Don’t forget that there are lots of other people currently wrestling with the same topics as you are. Why not get together and test one another, or to help each other to work through areas you’re both struggling with?

8. Relax and stay positive

It may seem a rather flippant thing to say, but it is important to recognise if you are struggling to cope with the stress. Signs can include not sleeping well, loss of appetite and generally feeling run down. Try to keep your goals achievable, and try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Above all, remember that it will all be over soon, and you’ll be able to enjoy the summer ahead (at least, until results day!).