10 Tips to Help You Get Revising & Handle Exam Stress

Exams can be one of the most stressful and challenging aspects of a student's academic life. The pressure of achieving good grades can cause anxiety and worry, making it difficult for students to focus on their studies. However, with proper revision techniques, students can prepare themselves thoroughly and confidently for any exam.

“Exam stress is a common experience for many students, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.”

There are ways in which students can manage exam stress whilst also incorporating good and effective study techniques. The saying ‘Preparation is Key’ has never been more relevant than when it comes to studying for exams. 

1. Preparation is Key

No surprises here. Feeling prepared can massively help reduce exam stress!

  • Create a study plan to allow weaker areas to be covered multiple times.  
  • Set realistic goals for your study sessions. Adjust them over time if necessary!
  • Break down the material into manageable chunks. 
  • Remember to take regular breaks. 

Taking breaks is important to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Take short 10-minute breaks every 45 minutes to an hour to stretch, get some fresh air, or do something you enjoy.

This may feel like wasted revision time if you are cramming last minute, but trust me - the brain needs to be relaxed and allow knowledge to sink in which it does without requiring any effort. On the other hand, if you are overwhelmed by the hours of tasks ahead, you are more likely to procrastinate and lack focus. Starting really is the hardest part.

The most important revision tip is to practice ways of just getting started. Consider using a productivity technique like the Pomodoro revision technique - which works wonders for breaking up tasks and keeping you motivated.

Trying to memorise for long periods while stressed is the academic equivalent of collecting water in a sieve! Other time-management techniques exist, so if that doesn't suit you it's best to find one that does.

2. Prioritise Physical & Mental Health

In today’s modern and social-media-dominant world, it can be hard for students to get enough sleep alongside all the fun distractions that technology brings with it. 

Adequate sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and try your best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each night. You should also avoid cramming while tired or staying up late the night before an exam. 

Don’t forget to keep your body as well as your mind active! An active body leads to a healthier mindset and vice versa! Their condition is tightly interconnected.

If you find yourself feeling emotionally heightened and feeling angry, sad or worried - it is bound to affect your ability to focus on studying. Consider giving mediation a go. It helps observe your emotions and reframe them as temporary issues that you can manage.

I know it might seem like a waste of time or a difficult skill, but just 20 minutes of meditation can turn your day around. One of the most accessible ways to try it is by watching the Netflix show called Headspace: A Guide to Meditation. Each episode includes a cautionary tale and a period of guided meditation on how to deal with that feeling.

Alternatively, you can take a short walk, go for a run, or do some yoga to help you relax and clear your mind during your study breaks. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve focus. It releases endorphins which improve mood and mental clarity and oxygen levels in your bloodstream. 

Raising your heart rate for at least 20 minutes per day is recommended. A physical outdoor game is a perfect way to trick yourself into getting this done and actually enjoying it. You’ll find any worries you felt before exercise will be reduced after some moderate exercise!

3. Eat & Drink Healthy

On the same level as prioritising healthy habits to benefit your physical and mental health, what you put in your body and how you care for it during a stressful revision or exam period is so important. 

It’s a common saying that: “You get out of life what you put into it" - so why would your body be any different? There are several unhealthy foods to look out for which become increasingly hard to avoid as your stress levels rise as they are packed full of sugar and fats that make us happy in the short term!

A lot of them lack nutrients and contain hidden sugar which may make you feel good for a short while, but you will soon feel tired and less focused than you did before. 

Try to avoid too many of the following foods:

  • Processed grains (white bread, white pasta and white rice - try the brown equivalent!)
  • Food with added sugar (cereals, yoghurts, cakes, muffins, sweets)
  • Energy Drinks (high caffeine and addictive)
  • High-fat or fried food (burgers, chips, pizza or takeaways)
  • Low-calorie foods (you need enough calories!)

On the contrary, there are energy-giving foods that also improve your mental ability to focus:

  • Blueberries & bananas
  • Wholegrain foods
  • Lean meat (chicken, turkey)
  • Naturally fatty fish (salmon, tuna, cod, and pollock)
  • Green tea
  • Coffee (1 per day)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts (unsalted/uncoated)
  • Pumpkin or Chia seeds
  • Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, kale, broccoli, and spinach)
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark Chocolate

If possible, focus on getting healthier foods in your body and limiting the unhealthier foods to once per week as a treat. In combination with enough sleep and drinking lots of water (at least 2 litres per day), you will see your energy levels and sleep quality improve.

4. Avoid Social Media

It would be a good idea to avoid social media during the exam period. Especially in the hour or two before you turn the lights off to go to sleep. This will improve your sleep quality. If you get bored, try reading a paperback novel for fun until you feel tired!

Social media has been a blessing as well as a curse and during stressful periods in life, it can really add to that stress. Avoid negative self-talk and focus on positive affirmations. Remind yourself that you have prepared as best as you can and that you can do well on the exam. 

Try not to compare yourself with others in your class or online, you will always be less prepared than someone else but also more prepared than most!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Talk to friends, family, or a counsellor about your feelings and concerns. Sometimes just talking about your stress can help reduce it.

5. Start Revision Early

The earlier you start revising, the more time you will have to cover all the material you need to learn. No surprises there!

It’s really important to be organised too so you reduce the risk of being unprepared. Nothing interrupts revision more than becoming anxious that there is not enough time to cover everything.

Create a revision timetable that covers all the topics you need to revise and allocate time slots for each topic. Make sure you stick to your timetable and give yourself regular breaks to avoid burnout. 

Sherpa has a lot more tips on how to create a revision timetable customised to you, designed to reduce the stress of covering all those topics in time for your exams. If you can, get help from your teachers to check your revision timetable - they will know what areas you need to give more time to. 

6. Understand the Exam Format

Understanding the exam format and structure is crucial for effective revision. Look at past exam papers and study the type of questions that are typically asked. This will give you a better idea of what to expect in the exam and will help you prepare more effectively. 

It’s really important to regularly try and answer exam-style questions from past papers or online resources throughout normal revision. It’s the only way to get used to the exam format and make sure you can recall the right information for the right question. The bonus with this is that it helps highlight areas you struggle with before it’s too late to fix them!

If you are studying English Language at GCSE, you are in luck! Another Sherpa tutor has put together a revision guide for the paper 1 exam and a list of tips to watch out for in paper 2 in blogs, just to help you understand the exam. 

7. Practice Active Learning

Passive revision techniques such as reading notes or textbooks are not as effective as active learning. It helps to mix up the medium (eg. watching, reading, writing, listening) of your revision as well as the ‘energy level’ of each activity. This keeps you from running low on motivation and keeps the revision manageable.

Practice answering past exam questions regularly, try creating mind maps, drawing diagrams from memory or writing flashcards to revise key concepts. This will help you consolidate your understanding and will improve your memory retention.

8. Make Use of Technology

There are many free apps and online tools that can help you revise more effectively. For example, Quizlet is a popular app that allows you to create your own or use pre-made flashcards and quizzes for revision. 

You can also use online resources such as YouTube and Khan Academy to supplement your learning - because sometimes you need an expert to show you through the stages of how to answer a question. 

Don’t be fooled into assuming everything you watch online is sinking in, you must practice active learning once you learn how to do something passively from a video explanation. Websites such as revision world and give you loads of practice papers to choose from. 

9. Study with Others

Studying with others can be a useful way to revise. It can help you gain different perspectives and can motivate you to work harder. 

Organize study groups with classmates and work through past exam questions together. However, make sure you are not distracted by socializing so that the focus remains on studying. Pick your study buddies wisely!

You can make an online study group and use websites like Quizlet to make the revision fun and competitive. One of the best ways to know you’ve learned to understand a topic is to try and teach it to someone who doesn’t understand it. 

10. Consider Finding a Tutor 

Investing in your education through a good tutor can have numerous benefits for students of all ages and academic levels. One-to-one tuition is proven to be the most effective way of learning in a short space of time.

Find the perfect tutor for you today on Sherpa.

Here are some of the key advantages of hiring a tutor:

Personalized learning: 

A good tutor can provide individualized instruction that is tailored to a student's unique learning style, needs, and pace. This can help students understand concepts more easily and can lead to better academic performance.

Improved academic performance: 

Working with a tutor can help students improve their grades and achieve their academic goals. Tutors can provide extra support in difficult subjects, help understand homework assignments, and prepare students for tests and exams.

They usually have special access to exam content and papers hidden from anyone else and examiners can help you target exactly what the markers are looking for.

Confidence and motivation: 

Tutors can help students build confidence and motivation in their academic abilities. By providing positive feedback and encouragement, tutors can help students develop a growth mindset and a love of learning. It’s beneficial to not feel alone in your academic journey.

Time management and study skills: 

Tutors can help students develop effective study skills and time management strategies. This can help students stay organized, manage their workload, and reduce stress. It’s like having your own teacher that can keep you on track!

Preparation for further education: 

Working with a tutor can help students develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for success in college and beyond. 

Learning this way of thinking is essential if you want to study a subject beyond high school - if all you do is memorise answers, you will struggle later in your career when things get harder. 

Tutors can also provide guidance and support for college applications, essays, and interviews.


Tutors can offer flexible scheduling and customized lesson plans to accommodate student's busy schedules and individual needs. This can help students balance their academic work with extracurricular activities, sports, and other commitments.

Whether students need extra help in a specific subject or want to improve their overall academic performance, working with a tutor can provide personalised support, motivation, and guidance that can help students achieve their academic goals.

In conclusion, effective revision requires planning, active learning, and a healthy lifestyle. By following these practical tips, students can prepare themselves confidently for their exams and achieve their academic goals.

Remember, every student is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different revision techniques and find what works best for you and always remember if you feel overwhelmed and anxious to always ask for help!

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