Exam Tips

BTYSTE Tips for Surviving Exam Season

The weather is warmer, the sun is shining, school’s out… It must be Exam Season!

Every year thousands of students sit the State exams and put all the knowledge they’ve learned to paper. Here at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition we understand that with the great weather and long stretch in the evening, there are exam students hard at work.

To recognise this and the great work our past-particpants have done during their time in school, we’ve made a list of our Top Tips for Surviving Exam Season, with help from the scientific community and our own experience.

1. Stress is natural

A little bit of stress can be good for you. It’s your body’s natural coping mechanism when it feels under attack. Neurotransmitters tell your brain to release stress hormones including adrenalin, cortisol and dopamine. A little adrenaline gives you focus and a temporary increase in energy, and a little dopamine and cortisol helps your memory. You want to stay in control, but remember that stress is natural and expected during exams. Studies find that people who embrace stress as a positive perform better.  If you find it overwhelming take deep breathes, counting slowly to five and release.

(http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2013-06053-001/)

2. Sleep is your best friend

Get at least 7 hours sleep each night. This is going to help you stay focused. Research has shown that not getting enough sleep can affect concentration and your ability to think clearly! Make sure you put your books away, keep everything quiet and avoid Snapchat. To sleep well you need to avoid ‘cognitive stimulation’. The blue light from your phone delays the brain from releasing melatonin, the sleepy feeling. Put your phone away at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep, ideally 60!

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/ & https://hbr.org/2015/08/research-shows-how-anxiety-and-technology-are-affecting-our-sleep)

3. Get out of the house

Exercise can really help to control your stress. It increases your endorphin levels and boosts your mood. Making time for exercise gives you something to feel positive about, separate from study and exams. It can boost your self-confidence and helps you sleep better. Studies even show those who exercise do better in exams.

(http://www.pnas.org/content/106/49/20906.abstract)

4. Feed your brain

Sweets and energy drinks are great for a short-term energy boost but you’re going to crash after it. Stick to water and fresh fruits. Your body will thank you for it. Planning your meals helps you ensure that you’re eating right and not grabbing junk food. You’ve heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Those who have a healthy breakfast before exams perform better.

(https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdf)

5. Laugh and take time for you

Take time to enjoy yourself, you can’t focus on exams every minute of the day. Only talking about exams with friends will increase stress and feelings of inadequacy. No one feels less stressed if they know their friend is three chapters or one page ahead of them. Laughing is good for you it releases serotonin and endorphins, whilst minimizing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. Laughter is infectious. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself everyone around you will be feeling better and less stressed.

(http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456?pg=2)

6. Fail to prepare, prepare to meditate

Have all the material you need ready to go from the day before – Pens, pencils, calculator, small bottle of water and a few sweets to keep you ticking over. Know your timetable. Then focus inward, meditation is great for relaxing the mind. Just a few minutes of meditation can dramatically reduce your stress levels and boost your IQ.

(http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(14)00058-4/abstract)

7. Exams are important but they don’t define you as a person

You won’t have any opportunity to put down your different talents as an answer to question 2 (b). Do your best, just try to be the best version of yourself.

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