Five tips for getting through your finals exams

The matric class of 2014 is currently sitting its final exams, as are students at tertiary institutions across the country. Exams, and the long wait for results, are nerve-wracking but you are not alone. Here are five ways to deal with exam stress.

1.       Relax!
The last thing you want to hear when you are stressing out is that you must relax. But Eileen Maleka, a careers educator at Wits University’s Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU), says nothing can be done until you are able to calm down.

“You need to own your position and realise that these exams are going to happen either way. Make them count anyway,” she says.

Relaxing also helps you think rationally. You are able to make better, well-thought out decisions when you are calm.

2.       Set a plan for yourself and stick to it
Schedule your study time and manage that time effectively. People do not perform as well as they are able when they do not plan. With no vision, you will fall short of your goals. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) say that the goals you set out must be specific, realistic and you must be able to measure the outcome. Work the plan and be disciplined.

3.       Be kind to yourself, affirm yourself and control your thoughts
With anxiety comes fear and worry. You need to consciously stop these thoughts by talking yourself out of them. Become your own biggest fan and tell yourself “I can do this”, “I can pass this subject,” and “I am stronger than I think I am.” You may not believe it at first, but the more you keep saying it to yourself, the more it registers in your brain. Do not underestimate the power of your thoughts and words.

4.       Prioritise your physical wellness
You are already anxious, your body is probably already strained in some way so it’s important to take extra care of it. Rest when your body is telling you that it is tired and find ways to unwind and re-energise.  Get adequate amounts of sleep, eat healthily and try not to consume too any energy drinks and supplements.

5.       Prepare adequately for the day of the exam
Get enough sleep the day before an exam. Set an alarm and if you are still worried, ask someone to wake you up. Getting to the exam venue early will help you stay calm before you sit down to write.

Make a checklist of everything that you will need on the day to ensure you don’t forget anything. If at any point during the exam you are overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath. Also use your words of affirmation to keep you calm. It will be over before you know it!

Don’t let exams get the better of you. If you feel like you are not coping, seek help. There are ways to deal with exam anxiety. You don’t have to go through it alone.

Read more about coping with exam stress on the SADAG website and on the Wits University CCDU website.