Thompson Rivers University

7 ways to cut exam stress

  Posted on: October 12, 2016

Midterms are upon us with finals just around the corner. Why not take some small steps beforehand to reduce some of the anxiety? And who knows, with a little preparation, you may actually enjoy the experience.

“I think there is incredible value in trying different strategies until you find what works for you,” said Wellness Coordinator Meaghan Hagerty. “You also need to be able to admit when something isn’t working anymore and tweak your plan.”

The TRU Wellness Centre suggests these seven tips:

Supplemental Learning

Group studying through Supplemental Learning can get you through challenging introductory courses.

1. Find a study partner or study group

Seek help from peers. If your exams involve elaborating or explaining concepts, discussing them out loud can go a long way towards recalling and understanding what you’re talking about. As a bonus, others may bring up points you hadn’t considered. Why not turn part of the session into mini exams?

Not sure who to ask or where to start? Try attending a Supplemental Learning (SL) study session. SL sessions are linked to challenging introductory courses in arts, business and science, led by students who have mastered the course and know what it takes to succeed in that class. Sessions are collaborative and often incorporate games or activities in order to reinforce the content. Check the SL schedule to see if your courses are included.

2. Take care of your health

Get enough rest, exercise and eat nutritious foods. TRU Recreation offers free yoga, fitness classes and drop-in gym times. Exercise doesn’t have to be an intense hour that keeps you burning for hours afterwards. It can be as easy as walking down the street and back, walking the dog or walking to get groceries.

3. Improve your time management skills with simple tricks

Counselling Services offers time management workshops and you can call them at 250-828-5023 for more information. Here are three to get you started:

hands off the phone

Hands off your phone and you could find yourself less stressed and more time on your hands.

Hands off the phone. When you need to concentrate on something, practice not answering your phone just because it’s ringing. That goes for texts, social media and email.

“When I was a student not so long ago,” said Hagerty, “I would set a timer on my phone, turn it over or put it across the room. I wouldn’t let myself look at it until the timer went off.”

Plan your day, or part of it. Early in your day, spend a few minutes planning the day or at least the next few hours. You will quickly determine what’s important and what is manageable.

“Writing things down can be a big help to get you to where you want to be,” said Hagerty. “Start with the big goal or target and then break it down into the steps necessary to get it done. Sometimes starting can be the hardest part with daunting tasks.”

Visualize success. Before doing an activity, ask yourself what needs to happen to make it successful. This will show you what success looks like. Afterward, reflect on whether things went according to plan and if not, what can be done next time.

4. Set limits and say no without feeling guilty

Your school work is a priority at this time, especially passing your exams. Those truly interested in your success will understand you’re preoccupied doing something important to you that has long-term consequences. Remember you can’t please everyone and when you are saying no, you’re actually saying yes to other things in your life. You may be saying yes to a more-relaxed exam season, to feeling more at ease and in control of things.

As a compromise, perhaps the request on your time can wait a few weeks to when things are a little less hectic.

If you're not sure about a concept or something being taught in the course, ask. Better to ask than not and try and bluff your way through in the exam.

Seek support from faculty and ask questions or dicsuss aspects you’re not quite sure of.

5. Seek support from faculty

Drop by during office hours to ask questions or discuss aspects you’re not quite sure of. It takes courage to ask questions, but better to know the content than trying to bluff your way through on test day. Getting answers could mean the difference between a letter grade or two and when put that way, asking doesn’t seem that difficult.

Career Mentoring Networking 411 held Jan. 21, 2016 in the Grand Hall.

Taking time to attend a career networking event can be a good break and great way to gain valuable insight and advice..

6. Take frequent time-outs to rejuvenate yourself

This can be in the form of power naps, exercise breaks, breathing, meditation, listening to music, playing an instrument, having a snack, a few minutes of social time or cheering on the WolfPack sports teams. If you’re involved in a campus club, break time can be your chance to do some of your duties.

Whatever activity you choose, five minutes or an hour could be exactly what you need to get your train of thought back on track and barreling towards focussed study.

Check out TRU’s events calendar for club events, career networking nights, special events, documentaries, guest lectures, live theatre and more.


Keep close at hand those who keep you smiling and upbeat.

7. Maintain positive relationships with family and friends

All of us have people in our lives who can instantly change for the better how we feel and how we view the world. During this important time, stay connected through social media, by text, phone or in person.