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3 October 2022

Your guide to T2, 2022 exams: how to stay calm, focused and in control this exam period

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

Step one is to ensure you understand how exams will be held and the requirements for your units. The exam period runs from Monday 10 to Friday 21 October – for all you need to know, just read our recent exam blogs:

Once you’re familiar with the academic and technical 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.

Keep active

You may have heard of endorphins – 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’re unable to focus after hours of reading, exercise is one of the simplest ways to stay positive. Even 15–30 minutes of exercise is useful, so include some ‘active time’ in your study routine.

Reframe unhelpful thoughts

While sitting an exam can seem daunting, it’s important to remember that 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, discover how to tame your inner critic.

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 specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

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.

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.

Focusing on something as simple as breathing helps to quieten those racing thoughts by acting as a temporary and soothing distraction. Use apps such as DeakinWELLBEING or Smiling Mind to find strategies to help you relax.

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 student mental health experts offers free and confidential support to Deakin students located in Australia. Book online to have a real-time telehealth appointment. We also have specialist counsellors available for First Nations, School of Nursing and Midwifery, and School of Medicine students. You may also find our online Ask Counselling blog helpful – browse existing questions and answers or post your own anonymous question for a personalised reply.

If you’re based overseas, check out our Student Assistance Program to access local support.

Best of luck with your exams!

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