Tips For Dealing With Exam Stress in College

So you've made it through the first semester of college doing the bare minimum; showing your face in a lecture one-two times a week, only visiting the library when your hangover gets too much and you need a nap. But once the pride of  that wears off, you're faced with a grim realisation. Exams. Those shitty little things that come around twice a year, (once if you're one of those lucky fuckers), solely designed to make your life hell. And let's face it, whether you've been at the lectures or not, everyone has that oh shit please no I'm gonna die I know nothing HELP feeling that comes around when you start to realise the ridiculous amount of reading you have to do. And if you haven't experienced it, your time will come my friend. Exams are gonna get ya. Luckily for you, you will be prepared for that time when you become overwhelmed with regret that can only be softened by copious amounts of Netflix and tears, because I am here to guide you through it.

Face Your Fears.

Procrastination and denial basically make up every student's soul. If you can't see the due date on the calendar, it doesn't exist. And when that date starts to rear its ugly head, then so comes the denial, "no there's totally still enough time to write this 2000 word essay based on two books I haven't read"*. But there comes a time when you need to face what you have to do, and accept the fact that maybe you haven't done that much work during the year. However, also accept the fact that so has the majority of your class. And I'm not entirely sure if the Bell Curve survives beyond the Leaving Cert, but they can't fail EVERYONE. I'm sure. But you need to realise that you have work to do, and it's going to be shit, and there might be tears, buuuut, it will also end, and then the celebrations will begin.


*May or may not be from personal experience.


Break It Down.

If your lecturers are sound, most of the time they'll give a breakdown or at least a vague guide of what might come up. What usually works for me is making a list. Though I am a list freak (I LOVE THEM), I do believe that they make things clearer. Make a list of what you have to do; find some quotes, learn some formulas, know those two irregular verbs etc. While this can be quite overwhelming to see a list of all these things that you need to do, it can also be calming because that's all you have to do. Work through what's on the list, and sure look, even if you don't get them all done, every item crossed off is another thing learned, and there's no greater feeling than crossing off stuff on a list.

Listen to Nike.

In case you didn't notice, making a list can also be an extremely productive way of procrastinating the study you will inevitably have to do. But then the times comes, my friend, to actually do the study you've been avoiding. I'M SORRY. But put that phone down and just do it. Put the head down, and do as much as you can. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, it probably won't be. But it will sure as hell make going into that exam hall easier having a bit of knowledge in that ceann of yours.


Treat Yo Self, Gurl.

In my opinion, the only effective study method is one that is interspersed with rewards. But be realistic, reading one paragraph does not equal a half hour break, no matter how much you need it. POWER THROUGH. Once you honestly can't do it anymore and you feel like your brain is going to fall out, then yes, I hereby grant you permission to take a break. Most of the time when I'm studying and I start watching Netflix, it's because I'm bored. Not because I'm tired. Do your best to fight off the boredom and actually do the work, and you'll thank me later.



Though it's hard, especially if you're an emotional wreck like me, calm yourself, and I don't mean that in a bitchy way. There's no way you're going to remember anything if you're crazy stressed and thinking about Making A Murderer. Breathe. Then breathe a few more times. You'll get through it. Try and stay calm. If you're feeling overwhelmed, walk away from wherever you're studying. Leave the environment, and remember that this is temporary, and exams aren't forever.

It's Okay to Be Stressed.

There is absolutely no shame whatsoever in getting stressed over exams. I think it's one of the rare times when you are actually allowed to be selfish. Don't feel like you need to act like you're on top of everything, or that you're okay. If you need to freak out, do. If you need to cry, then let them tears fall. Get it alllll out. You will honestly feel better afterwards. Once you get all the stressed emotion out, your mind will be much clearer which will make it easier to focus.

Exams Aren't Everything.

Remember this. Neither are the results. This is something I constantly have to tell myself, and it can be hard to remember at times. In the big scheme of things, these Christmas or summer exams are just a blip. Exams can be repeated, and marks can be made up. They're not the end of the world, nor are they the only thing about you. Getting one bad result or even failing something does not mean you are a failure. It doesn't mean you're stupid, lazy, or need to drop out. Your results are just results. There are so many other things that go much further in life, and are more important. So don't waste your tears on something that your lecturers put together purposely designed to make you stress. Because we all know that's the only reason we have exams.

Clodagh McMeel
Article written by
Self-confessed cat lady, Clodagh is known for her sneezing and laziness. She is most often found on the couch or in bed, usually accompanied by her laptop and pizza. When she isn't doing nothing, she studies English and French in Maynooth. But that's very rare.

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