Dear … exam stress

Dear Sophia,⁠

Five years ago, you posted this image to social media, trying to send some positive hopeful energy out, because frankly, you were somewhat of a mess. Exam pressure did that to you. Two and a half hours later, you walked out and the heavy burden was lifted because, as you put it, “it went better than I thought”. ⁠

Repeat after me: I will pass this finance exam. I will pass this exam. I will pass this exam.

This week social media reminded you of this snapshot of a moment captured in the black-and-white photo you chose to accompany the post and it got me thinking of my students and exams they may have to do next term. What would I say to them about the pressures of exams?⁠

When I was 16, 17, what advice would have I wanted to have heard before going into exams? Those were the questions I asked myself as I sat down this morning with my cup of coffee. Reflecting on this, these are the advice I would give my younger self, but also to my students next term.

  1. Exam pressure can be scary, but remember this: we can’t do more than the best shot and effort we put into preparing for this exam. Don’t strive for perfection.
  2. Don’t let exams take over your life. You need balance; prioritize your study but make sure you carve out time to socialize as well as spend time having fun with your interests and hobbies.
  3. Clarity comes when the mind is still, not when it is busy. So take time to switch off, relax and calm the thousands of thoughts that must be racing through your mind.
  4. Spend at least 30 minutes of your day moving. Whether that be through walking, running, yoga, dancing or working out.
  5. Remember that everyone learns differently, so how you study will be different to others. Find the study regime that works for you, and create a structure.

Exam time is a stressful time and this is one of the reasons why resilience is so crucial for a balanced mental health during this time. Though whilst this letter is addressed to myself, I hope that it is helpful for anyone who needs reassurance as they enter exam times.