Coping with exams

Coping with exams


The Do’s and Don’ts for preparing for, and handling exam season.

The majority of us will have to sit exams in our lives. Whether we like it or not, it’s relatively impossible to avoid them. Learning to cope with both the revision process and exam period for myself has definitely been a work in progress throughout my academic life. Despite having sat two years of university, I would still say that each year I am continuing to learn better methods of dealing with them, especially as someone who deals relatively badly with the stress and anxiety of exam pressure and academia in general. So, I’ve listed below some of my top tips and tricks to help you throughout your exams. If you think I’ve missed any, drop them in the comment section below.


  • Don’t overreach in terms of your daily goals!

This is something I fall short with EVERY TIME! Setting yourself ridiculous expectations will be your own biggest downfall, it will make anything you do not seem good enough and you’ll never feel like you’re achieving anything. So, second tip is…

  • Set yourself realistic goals!

I don’t really use revision timetables because every year I spend hours drawing one up, allocating time for each day, only to completely ignore it when I actually begin. If they work for you then great, by all means maximise their use if they aid your time management. Instead I set myself rough goals of what I should have completed by either the end of the day of the end of the week, and work as hard as I can to meet those goals. I also make these to-do lists small and manageable, set a few ‘must completes’ and then anything else on the list that I get to is just a bonus. It’s soooo important to remember that we are only human, our brains can only deal with, process, and remember a certain amount of info at one time! Rushing to cram it all in will only detriment your learning process. Be kind to yourself.

  • Keep stocked up on food and drink.

If I said that I only ate carrots and hummus and fruit during revision I would be lying…I practically lived off crisps, chocolate, coffee and pasta this year (lol), however, as long as you feel well physically and mentally, I strongly believe that during a period as stressful (and emotional) as exams, eat whatever you want that will make you happy. Try and strive for a balance so you’re at least getting all the nutrients you need, but don’t suddenly act like comfort food is the spawn of saran. And drink water!! A lot of it!  eep a big bottle on your desk near you and it will be harder for you to forget. .And keep stocked up on energy providing food like brown pasta/rice etc. Taking vitamin tablets every day is also a good idea, especially if you are slacking off on the veggies.

  • Stationery!

This one might be a personal/nerd preference, but I love stocking up on new pens, good quality paper, and revision cards SO MUCH. It makes such a difference for me, be it psychological or not. Start as you mean to go on and invest in the tools you need to make your revision notes vibrant and clear to read because it really does make a difference having your notes visually clear and bright.

  • Making your notes clear, condensed, and colourful.

How you actually physically lay out your revision is very much dependent on your subjects and personal preference. I personally work very visually, and benefit the most from hand-writing notes. I start off by condensing notes on a topic into a word document which I highlight on Word, and print out. From there I condense them into handwritten notes (spider-diagrams, bullet points etc), and then again into 5-6 revision cards for each topic. For me, highlighters and coloured pens are key: I will have historians in blue, key points in red, facts in green, for example. This is obviously dependent on the individual, but for me it ingrains it in my mind much more – I can be sat in an exam and think ‘what was highlighted pink and written in green half way down that revision card?’ and it can help jolt a memory. Find out what works for you!



  • SLEEP.

The night before my A-Level Politics exam I had three hours sleep and then threw up the next morning (it was tragic). I did well in the exam but felt like I was dying in the process (I was genuinely having heart palpitations lol).  Sleep is so incredibly important: although the recommended eight hours might not be achievable, at least try and get six minimum the night before an exam. It truly does affect how alert you are, and if you have an afternoon exam you will slump before you even go in.

  • Put yourself in a calm situation pre-exam.

There is nothing I hate more than being around people before an exam, especially people sitting the same one. Listening to someone discuss things you have never heard of throws you off track so much and completely messes up your focus. I am lucky to have a park next to my campus, so pre-exam I walked around that a couple of times before I headed into the exam.

  • Exceptional circumstances.

This is very much dependent on your institution/school, but if you have been suffering with a long term health issue that has taken up time in terms of doctors appointments, illnesses etc, you have the option to apply for exceptional circumstances, meaning said issue will be taken into account with your exam results.

  • Jot down anything you think you will forget once the exam has begun, and answer your strongest question first.

Obviously, again this is dependent on your subject and exam format. For me, I answer three essays in three hours. I jot down any historians, authors, and dates that I think I will forget so I can refer back to them. Answering your strongest question first means you ensure you will do it justice and really have one solid answer to show off with, and won’t be thrown off by answering a difficult one. Otherwise you run the risk of 1. running out of time or 2. forgetting something in the course of the exam and then messing up your best chance of showcasing how much you know.


Lastly, but most importantly, remember that exams, regardless of the level you are sitting them at, are not the be all and end all of life, no matter how much pressure you are under or how much you have riding on said exam. From experience, both personally and from friends over the years, messing up, not getting what you wanted, and even completely failing an exam can be rectified. Retaking can be an option, and there is always the chance to change the course you had set out, and whilst this may not be appealing or what you had planned, alternatives do exist. One day you will look back and realise that whatever happened, everything turned out alright in the end.

People our age are under immense pressure in our education systems, and I honestly don’t think we get enough credit! So remember to give yourself a pat on the back, and just do the best you can, because at the end of the day that really is all you can do.

Good luck!

Kirstie x

240 thoughts on “Coping with exams”

  • This helped alot kirstie!! Such good tips on how to cope with the exam life and i shall attempt to try them out x

        • Thankyou for sharing this tips with us! I’m now on my exams season for end the semester, a little bit sad that i read this on my third day of my exams so i can’t try your tips for the first 2 exams (which was calculus and chemistry and it was the worst!) but hey i still got 5 subjects to try this tips. Once again, thanks! This will help lots of people coping hard times on exams. Your blog is amazing please keep writting 💖

          Lots of love
          Fia x

  • This is so good and will definitely help me with exams next year, I’m in 1st year at high school, going into second year this summer. I just want to say that I admire you and think you are an amazing person, what you’re doing with this blog will definitely help so many others, thank you💟

    • I’m really glad! I think talking to people going through similar situations is the best way to put our minds at ease x

  • Everytime when I will do my exams I will look at this! Amazing. Thank you a lot Kirstie! ♥ Love your blog already.
    Charlie xx

  • Hi Kirstie, I’m from Argentina and I’m in my third year at college. I think that the tips you mentioned are super useful and I’m sure they’ll help a lot of people like they have helped me. Also, I love the fact that so far away from where I live, people go through the same experiences and problems like me, so I can feel identified with you. Congratulations on your second year! And keep writing 😊

    • Hiya! Ah amazing, really glad you think so. The internet’s amazing isn’t it? So good being able to connect with people from all over the world! Thanks again x

  • This is really good advice, we’ll be sure to use it for my exams! Don’t know why you were so nervous posting it!

  • This is such perfect advice! I’ve just finished my AS exams and am doing the same subjects as you did! I used some of these techniques but will definitely take them all into account for next year! Xx

  • This is so so helpful, il be starting a psychology degree in September and I’m terrified for the exam part of the course as I always stress and then fail – I will deffo be referring back to this, it gives me hope! Haha, can’t wait to see more posts!x

    • Good luck with that, sounds exciting! Everything seems a lot more daunting from a distance. Really hope this helps a lil bit! x

      • Thank you so much! Could you please consider doing a post about uni life kinda thing and how you’ve found the first year and second year different?x

  • I am in the middle of doing exams just now so this advice has really helped. Thank you so much for posting it. Xx

  • This has actually helped ❤️💋💕definitely gonna use this ❤️❤️❤️💋💋💕💕👍🏻

  • After reading this, I will definitely be using these tips next year. This year I really struggled to keep up with revision and to find motivation. These will really help me next year when I take the rest of my exams. Thank you x

  • This is so useful! I’m currently doing my GCSEs and have been so put off revising lately but I reckon this’ll help me get back on track. 🙂 Thank you!

    • Ah really glad you think so! Sometimes we need a lil nudge in the right direction. Good luck, you’ll be great x

  • This is really helpful thank you x and btw I spent like 3 hours making a timetable and I haven’t used it I don’t think I’m going to make one the next time 😂❤️

  • This helped me so much! I’ve recently started my exams and I have plenty more when school starts again so I’ll make sure to keep your tips in mind when revising and when sitting the exams, thank you Kirstie😊😊 x

  • Hi Kirstie! I’m dealing with a lot of exams right now and this is so helpful. However, next year I’m going to college and I think this’ll be like really useful! So thanks for doing it xx

  • I also find visualising my work a really good technique during the exam!! These tips have been really helpful! Thank you x

    • It’s a good technique isn’t it! I’m sure it’s probably personally but I think its good to at least give it a go. Thanks for reading! xx

  • I don’t think you fully understand how helpful this is, I am yet to sit my GCSEs and I have been looking everywhere for an article like this to help me calm down/help me be more prepared for exams, considering I have been diagnosed with anxiety, calming me down is a very hard thing to do! So I congratulate you on writing such an amazing piece that has not only helped me, but has helped others too x

  • It’s helped me a lot, and I think your blog will be a good inspiration for the weekdays! Thank you, Kirsite! I hope for it a lot you will rest, you deserve it & I will share the link ALL of the hungarian blog-link proposers! 🙂 ♥

  • Kirstie this is so helpful, especially since I’m going through my GCSEs at the moment and I know I’ll have more exams to sit and revise for in college 💙 . Thank you so much for writing this post xx

  • Absolute life saver- still got a few more exams after the half term. May get through them now! Thanks,M

  • Hello Kirstie! I understood you so much during your exams period when i saw your snaps and tweets, I was in the middle of my exams too, and the most important of my life cause its the last one before getting in thw work life (if this makes sense) It was so stressful and i think that we put way too much pressure on ourselves, it kinda ruins a time in our lives we’re supposed to enjoy. Instead we have to worry, and personally for one month i didnt sleep and i ate way too much because of this ahah. Anyway, thanks for your tips that are so useful, I hope you did great at your exams, And I cannot wait to see more posts from you, you did a great job! xx

    • Flipping awful wasn’t it! But you’re right, at the time it all seems like the end of the world..then you come out the other side and realise that the world keeps turning whatever happens. Good luck with everything and thanks for being so supportive! x

  • I usually feel horrible when I can’t complete what I planned for the day so yeah setting up more realistic goals might actually help feel effective, thanks! And if you tend to be anxious I heard that chamomile tea helps a lot (I’ve never tried though). 😉 Thanks for the tips and good luck with your exams! x

    • It’s such an easy trap to fall into! Chamomile tea is actually great! Really good for before bed. No worries, thank you!x

  • This was so useful and will be a great help with the rest of my GCSEs and I am really excited to see what else you post! I imagine you blog will be such a good inspiration💜!! Hope you enjoy the summer now your exams are over xxx

  • I loved this post and it helped me a lot! English Lit is one of my strongest subjects at school meaning I put so much pressure on myself to do well in the exam in order for me to take it at A Level and in the end I cracked and only answered one of the two questions and ended up crying in the middle of the exam because I thought I’d done so badly. Although I know it, it’s always nice to have the reminder that exams aren’t the be all and end all of everything X

    • ah bless you. There is such a horrible pressuring culture around exams, it makes me wanna wrap everyone up in a blanket and cuddle them!! Don’t worry about it bub, things will turn out fine I promise x

  • This is really helpful Kirstie! The advice will help me with finals for next semester so thanks so much! I will take the advice with me for now on! I’m from America and I think our studying is the same! Sleep and food is very important to stay focus. you a very great writer and can’t wait to read more xxx

    • Thanks so much <3 really hope it can help some way with your finals. Bet you'll be great! Good luck and thanks again xx

  • Hey kirstie I loved your work already and seeing u made a blog makes me super happy! I suffer really badly with exam stress and am currently doing my GCSEs only 7 left to go now, will definitely be using your tips thank you!

  • I love this, I just finished my exams today and your message at the end was exactly what I needed to hear after 4 weeks of exams, can’t wait to read more posts 🎉 X