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Dealing with Exam Stress | University College Melbourne

By Micol Carmignani

With uni exams fast approaching, we discuss helpful tips and advice for University College students to stay on top of their studies. Read our University College study tips today.

Dealing with Exam stress

As we approach the end of Semester 1, 2021, exams are becoming an unavoidable reality for most students. This can be really stressful, so we have asked our Academic and Wellbeing representatives (Paul and Harry respectively) to share some of their tips for staying on top of it. 

Paul’s Answers to Your Top Questions: 

What is your advice for students who are struggling to find the motivation to study right now?

Some people may be struggling to study right now if they are behind on the course work and it might feel too daunting to attempt to catch up in Week 11. However, it is certainly not too late to catch up, and you might regret it if you do not at least try. If you do not have the motivation or energy to watch full lectures right now, looking through the lecture slides and considering the content is far better than nothing. Skimming the abstract and conclusion of readings is better than not looking at them at all. Lastly, have a chat to our amazing resident tutors at University College, as they have strong study experience in their fields and really truly do want to help you succeed academically. 

What is a good amount of study to be doing per day?

This is a difficult question, as it really does depend on the course you are taking, and your position in that course. If you are behind content-wise, then several hours a day if possible is probably a good amount to do until you can catch up on lectures and tutorials. Otherwise, if you are on track (congratulations), you really should be able to gauge what an adequate workload is. Do not overwork yourself however, as it is counterproductive. 

What is your advice for students on exam day? Should they study? What should they wear? What should they eat?

When exam day comes, it’s not very likely you are going to retain much of the information you try and cram on the day. So, my advice is to just go over your notes, screenshots, worksheets, assignment feedback and try and understand what you are being assessed on. Reading the criteria also helps, as it can say if they are weighting the concepts, presentation, or clarity more.  To be honest, I have not had an in-person exam yet, so I am not super qualified to talk about this. But you do not need to look stylish in your exam room, wear something that is comfortable and that you can sit in for extended periods of time. If you can, you should try and eat like you regularly would before an exam. Having a good breakfast and lunch will help you remember facts and concepts, and you will be more awake to write them down. 

Do you have any other helpful tips to help UCers succeed?

My biggest tip for UCers to succeed is to sleep well. In my opinion, foregoing sleep to work on an assignment/study is usually counterproductive, unless the assignment/quiz is due that night. It is usually always better to have a well-rested sleep and resume work the next day, as you will be more productive after a good night’s rest and it will take you less time to do the work compared to if you were missing sleep. Furthermore, work done when you need sleep is often not high-quality work.

 

A Few Words of Wisdom from Harry:

This time of year is hectic for students at University College, and it is easy to forget about your priorities besides studying; this is particularly evident in the concerns of mental and physical wellbeing. Exam-based anxiety and stress are commonplace this time of semester, and it is important to keep everything in perspective or we risk becoming consumed by our study. It’s particularly important to stay aware of when stress about the upcoming assessment is becoming too much. If fear of failure is consuming your thoughts every day, if you are easily breaking into tears or you suffer from physical responses like sweating, shaking, heavy breathing or a tight chest, this is when to think about talking to someone about your stress levels. Everyone will feel anxious around this time, but there is a certain point where it becomes a concern that you should keep an eye on for yourselves and for people around you. 

To help prevent this from consuming you, it is important to make sure you keep a balanced lifestyle. Keep on exercising, see your mates, and do not let what you prioritise in everyday life go missing because of your exams. A way that I ensure this is by timetabling my days, from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed, scheduling meals, study times and relaxing times throughout the day. This not only ensures I stay happy and healthy, but forces me to be productive, and gives me peace of mind that I am covering all my subjects whilst looking after myself. Studying from 9 to 5 with no breaks will not get you anywhere – moving around and having time to yourself has been proven to increase productivity and memory retention. With beautiful parklands around us, it is important to highlight the fact that walking in nature can be vital to mental health and is a perfect opportunity to rejuvenate and leave technology behind after being stuck inside studying.

We need our wellbeing and mental health every day to function; if we are not physically active, not getting 8-10 hours of sleep and not eating properly, this will leave you working inefficiently and will undo all your hard work. Keeping time for yourself and making yourself happy have been shown to improve memory, motivation and assist in avoiding burn out. So do not feel guilty about spending an extra hour in the dining hall with your mate or going for a long walk, because we all need it to help improve our performance. If you feel like you are not in a good headspace, it is important to talk to someone. We will have our new wellbeing coordinator, Katie, coming in on Monday and you will be able to book in with her. Additionally, all universities offer mental health services, or you can alternatively go to your GP. There is also myself (your wellbeing rep), our Dean of Students and the youth workers here to chat. Don’t forget to check out the University College support programs and I have also have linked some resources for you to check out, especially on meditation and how to deal with exam stress. Look after yourself everyone!

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app – headspace guided meditation

https://services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/resources/study-related-issues/exam-anxiety

https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/counseling-and-psychological-services/managing-test-anxiety