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As exam season kicks in, it's time to talk revision tips, coping with exam stress and how to keep an eye on the bigger picture. We're joined in chat by JenR and Kimbers, our resident study experts.
Jo7 - TheSite mod: Welcome to the exam chat folks, feel free to chip in with your own tips and ask a question if you have one.
Abi: Hi there. I'm Autistic and I can't manage stress what so ever! I've looked into ways of coping with it, and had my first GCSE exam a few days ago. I broke down with panic and was really stressed. How can I prevent that happening with future exams? For example I have my French one coming up, and I'm scared shitless.
JenR: Hey Abi, what ways of coping have you tried so far? Preparing for an exam is half the battle. When you go into it, do you feel ready and confident about the subject?
Abi: I can manage the stress before the exam perfectly because I'm in my own environment. I've tried taking a few deep breaths before going in to the exam room and talking to my teacher if things get too much. I do feel ready and pretty much confident, because I know I'll come out with my best, but the feeling goes the minute I enter the examination room or when my name's called to enter!
JenR: It's great that you feel confident about the subject and know you will do your best. Try to hold on to that feeling. Taking deep breaths is a great start Abi. It's understandable that you feel nervous when going into the exam room, that's natural and anxiety is common. Reading through the questions carefully and planning your time is always a good way to calm your nerves.
Abi: Thanks :)
Megan: I've got my final GCSE exams coming up (they start on monday, Ahhhh!) and I'm afraid that I'm going to fail everything. If I do, then I'm worried about how to deal with it without it being the end of the world. I can predict how I will react if everything goes wrong. I get so stressed in/before/around/after exam time and just don't know how to handle it. Sleep goes out the window and so does tranquillity. Generally, I'm just scared as hell.
JenR: Thanks for your question Megan. I'm sorry to hear that you have been feeling fearful about the exams.
Kimbers: Hi Megan. It's always really quite stressful around exam time and how you're feeling is perfectly natural. Can I ask how you go about preparing for your exams?
Megan: Revision sessions, personal revision, reading guides, practice papers.
Kimbers: Ultimately, it's always worth remembering that there is life after exams. There are always other options if things don't go as well as you'd have hoped. It may feel like there is so much riding on this but you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself and this won't be helping at all.
It sounds as though you are doing lots of different things to help with revision which is great. It might be worth trying to include friends or study buddies in the process as this might make it more fun as well as share some of the pressure.
Megan: The way I see it, if I fail I won't be allowed into college and then I won't go to uni, won't get a job and my life won't really be worth it.
vish: I just did my GCSEs last year. I know how you're feeling Megan but keep working hard and make sure you ask your teachers if you don't understand and I'm sure you will pass with good grades :)
Kimbers: It's important to keep things in perspective Megan - failing an exam is not failing at life. Jumping too many steps ahead in your thought process is only going to add more pressure. Remember, one step at a time and there are always options.
wavy: UCAS is good for after your exams too Megan.
JenR: I can understand how it must feel like the end of the world but with all your preparation, you're on the right path. When you say you think you're going to fail do you mean you won't get the results you want?
Megan: Yes Jen, I don't feel I'm going to be able to get what my parents and teachers expect me to get, or actually what I feel I should get, and that upsets me. Sounds stupid, what's UCAS? I know you get UCAS points from exams and that :D
wavy: It's the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) - the admission service for students applying to university and college.
**Helen** - TheSite mod: Here's a link to the UCAS website for further read 'After' exams Megan :) You could book mark it for now - http://www.ucas.com/students/apply/
Kimbers: At the end of the day Megan you can only ever do your best. By trying to live up to others' expectations you are only adding pressure to yourself. The word "should" is a dangerous one, it implies that expectation. Perhaps you could try thinking about what you would "like" to achieve for yourself and not for others.
Megan: Yeah, I know. I just need to calm down and do my best. Easier said than done though!
JenR: It is, you're right and it's great you have that awareness of what you need to do. Even if you don't get the top grades I'm sure there will be a place at college for you. As regards your parents, I'm sure they will be pleased to know you are doing your best but most importantly that you're happy doing it.
Kimbers: Try saying to yourself before every exam "I can only do my best"!
wavy: Try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Megan: Haha, I may just do that Kimbers and yeah, I'm sure you're right Jen. Thanks Wavy, and will do Helen. Thanks pals :)
Kimbers: When you're revising for exams it's also really important to make sure you give yourself some time off - short bursts of revision followed by small incentives can help. Also, no late night cramming as this will only make you tired for the actual exam and you won't take as much in anyway. Trying to find time to do fun stuff at the end of the day as a reward can help too.
vish: I can do revision and stuff at college whilst having fun but as soon as I get home I just can't be bothered to do any work or revision. I get really lazy and start playing games or just chill on facebook.
ninaballet: I know the feeling exactly vish.
JenR: Hi Vish, thanks for your question, what you have said is pretty normal. It can be hard to stay motivated after a full day of college or work.
wavy: The internet offers a lot of revision material that can be fun, if you have a smart phone I'm sure there are revision aid apps.
sophiepeapie: I learnt that you're most productive for the first 20 minutes when you start to revise. You should revise for 20 minutes with a 10 minute break. Your brain recognises the break so you have the same concentration you did when you started for a further 20 minutes.
JenR: How about revising with people after college?
sophiepeapie: Or revising with people who have already done that exam, like people from the year above. They can show you how to answer certain questions or help you revise practice papers?
vish: I could try to get classmates to meet up every other day, that might help out everyone :)
JenR: That's great vish, sounds like a good plan.
**Helen** - TheSite mod: I remember feeling relieved when friends asked me to revise with them, I was nervous to ask, but everyone appreciates it! It can actually be quite fun when there's a few of you doing it together.
"It's important to keep things in perspective - failing an exam is not failing at life. "
JenR: Talking through the revision topics with others can sometimes help you to understand it better, rather than simply reading a text book.
Kimbers: Maybe you could tweet each other the answers!
sophiepeapie: We do that at sixth form. Someone from the year above took one of his free study lessons to help the whole class revise and everyone has benefited from it.
Megan: I agree with that **Helen**, you can make it into a game, sort of like a television quiz, quite fun :)
JenR: Sounds great.
vish: Does the group revising thing have the same effect if it's done over Skype or something if everyone can't meet up face to face?
Megan: I think it could still be beneficial vish, if you don't get too many connection problems ;)
Kimbers: Yeah, I don't see why not, it's always worth a try as long as everybody takes it (mostly) seriously and there's not too much mucking about!
vish: Yeah that will be the hardest thing to avoid Kimbers.
Kimbers: It should be easier if you set some guidelines i.e. if you allocate a set time for "serious stuff" then give each some time for "fun stuff" it might work better. Getting like-minded people on board who may be feeling the same as you will help too.
Megan: You said you spend a lot of time on the internet vish when you should be revising. There are twitter pages that update each day revision topics or little snippetss of a topic to help you. Might be worth a look.
sophiepeapie: You could also make a revision board game or play ''snap'' - making a question match the answer?
vish: Nice. I could try making a game. I just finished doing my games development unit.
JenR: These are all great ideas.
ninaballet: Just a general revision tip from me: Try and fit everything onto an A3 poster for an entire subject, it makes it seem less scary. If you find something you don't know much on you can revise it in more detail.
Jo7 - TheSite mod: That's a great idea nina, something more visual can be really great. We all respond to different methods of revising.
Kimbers: Visual prompts are great. When I was revising for my GCSE's I had A4 pieces of paper stuck all around the house with formulas/elements/French phrases etc., even in the bathroom and on the fridge! I would change these in the run up to the exam depending what it was on.
Megan: I think my mum would go mad if I stuck things all over the house, haha.
ninaballet: My mirrors in my room are covered in maths formulas, can practice ballet and revise at the same time!
Kimbers: Yeah, I don't think mine was that impressed after about 1 month of it, but it was worth it. If you explain why it's important she might be a bit more understanding.
JenR: what about around your room Megan?
Megan: Think I'll go for that Jen.
Tanya: I like visuals too. I find videos on discussions can be interesting too although some are a bit boring sometimes.
Jo7 - TheSite mod: We have a useful article here on TheSite with revision tips too - one for the bookmarks: http://www.thesite.org/workandstudy/studying/exams/revisiontips
Tanya: Any tips on how to relieve stress but still keep active in revising?
JenR: Regular breaks Tanya and eating properly is always good. Also, make sure you're in comfortable surroundings.
vish: You could listen to instrumental study music.
**Helen** - TheSite mod: Tanya, we have a podcast on dealing with exam stress that you might find it helpful to listen to after this session: http://www.thesite.org/workandstudy/studying/exams/examstress
sophiepeapie: Or for words you need to know or learn you can come up with mnemonics like 'My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas' as a way of remembering the nine planets in order of distance from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). Just a thought.
Kimbers: Or a stress ball. I have one made of bluetac at work that helps keep me calm when I am trying to concentrate.
Tanya: Thanks for the tips guys! I've been listening to classical music, sometimes my concentration wanders.
JenR: It's natural, we can't be expected to concentrate for a very long period of time.
sophiepeapie: You can use your stairs if you have them as well - for each stair you walk up, you can ask yourself a question and you answer them each stair you go up.
Kimbers: That's a great idea sophie!
JenR: Don't forget guys, stress can also be a positive thing. It can helps us to keep focus and also causes an adrenaline rush which can produce positive motivation.
sophiepeapie: You should make things colourful and ''jazzy'' as well. No one wants to revise boring black and white things! If you make it colourful and a bit jazzy then you're more likely to take in the key facts.
Megan: Thanks everyone!
JenR: Thanks for all your questions guys, good luck with all your exams, relax and try to enjoy them, you have worked hard for them and it will show. It's been great chatting to you all, see you soon!
Kimbers: Good luck with your exams everybody and remember, you can only try your best. It's as simple as that really!