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25 May 2022

How to survive – and even thrive – this exam period

Sitting an exam isn’t something most people enjoy, and the exam period can be one of the most stressful times of the trimester. Do you put pressure on yourself to achieve good marks and meet high personal or family expectations? We’re here to help you through it!

The Trimester 1 exam period runs from Monday 6 to Friday 17 June. So, first things first: do you understand how your exams will be held and the requirements for your units?

Once you’re familiar with the academic side of things, you may still need to calm those pesky nerves. Luckily, there’s some tried and tested ways to relax your mind, turn stressors into a strength and get in the exam zone.

Tick icon Keep active

Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, along with dopamine, which helps you to stay motivated, and serotonin, a hormone that helps to make you feel good.

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by pre-exam stress, or you can’t focus after hours of reading, exercise is a simple way to stay positive. Even 15–30 minutes of exercise is useful, so include some ‘active time’ in your study routine.

Tick icon Reframe unhelpful thoughts

Sitting an exam can seem daunting, but they’re not designed to trick you or catch you out. Focusing on negative self-talk like ‘I’m underprepared’ or ‘My life will be ruined if I fail’ can increase stress and anxiety, and significantly affect exam performance.

Reframe your thoughts by focusing on your abilities and setting realistic expectations. Think of your exam as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. If you still need some guidance to manage your self-talk, it’s time to tame your inner critic.

Tick icon Use SMART goals

If you feel so overwhelmed by exam preparation that you don’t know where to start, you might find yourself procrastinating. To make an important task feel more achievable and increase your chance of success, set SMART goals that are:

Tick icon Be kind to yourself

Don’t let studying for exams consume every waking hour – you still need to make time each day for the things you love.

Prioritising other areas of your life besides study will allow you to be your best, energised and most happy self, so that you can prepare for exams in a productive and effective way.

Tick icon Breathe for calmness

Deep breathing is a simple and effective way to help you feel calm and manage stress and anxiety. Try taking a few deep breaths whenever you notice your stress levels rising, such as while you’re studying or just before your exam.

To slow down your breathing, inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of six. When you lengthen your exhalations to be longer than your inhalations, your body begins to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will calm you down.

Explore the DeakinWELLBEING app for a range of digital tools and resources to help you stay calm and relaxed.

Tick icon Talk with someone

While these strategies can collectively help you to manage stress during exam time, if anxiety is an ongoing challenge please confide in a family member, friend or counsellor about how you’re feeling.

Our team of highly skilled psychologists and social workers offers free and confidential support to Deakin students located in Australia. If you’re overseas, you can access local support. We also have specialist counsellors available for First Nations and School of Medicine students – just select your relevant cohort when you book.

You may also find Ask Counselling helpful. This online resource provides advice on emotional and psychological issues – browse existing questions and answers, or post your own anonymous question for a personalised reply.

Best of luck with your exams!

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