This Is My Exams Story
Exams are everywhere at the moment and it can be a really difficult time for some of you. Meic is here to help by publishing lots of helpful information over the next few weeks to help you prepare and cope. If you’re finding it really hard to cope then you can contact Meic on the details at the bottom of this article.
(This article is also available in Welsh – I ddarllen y cynnwys yma yn Gymraeg, clicia yma)
Alice from Cardiff knows all too well about the stress that comes with exams and she wanted to share her experience with other young people. Below you can read her perspective and advice from when she sat her exams, but to begin here’s a little video based on her story that we’d like to share with you.
Exams may be over for me, but I remember that time when it was impossible to close your eyes and drift off without hearing your teacher’s voice drumming into your ear, telling you that any decision you make now will stay by your side for the rest of your life.
I tried not to panic and keep calm, though this usually resulted in further mayhem as I then started panicking about why I couldn’t keep calm. I even took on the advice of counting sheep, though these usually turned into historical dates or mini-Henry VIII’s galloping over the fence.
Worse still, after the exams I was left with unanswered questions:
“What could I have written in the last five minutes of that French exam?”
If I wasn’t preoccupied by these obstacles then the equation for the area of a circle was sure to appear in my dreams at least three times a night.
Stressed with advice about stress!
Often there seemed to be more information about the symptoms of stress than ways to beat it. My pet peeve is the advice pages that list the symptoms of stress. I for one was stressed. Yes, I had a headache and yes, I couldn’t sleep. However, I wanted to combat the little pest, not be given a few bullet points of advice that stated, ‘breathe deep’ – as an asthmatic this can prove a little difficult! There I was, wide awake at two in the morning, trying to reassure myself that if I kept calm and breathed in-and-out slowly I would sleep for nine hours straight before the maths exam – not likely!
So to help others looking for useful advice rather than a list of symptoms, here are my top tips to help during exams.
1. Time your revision right
The first on the list of rookie errors is revising late at night. Trying to cram the timeline of World War II into your head at 11pm only serves to show you what you do not know and will also keep your brain running around in little circles when you rest your head on your pillow. Try and stop revising at least an hour before turning the light out; go for a walk, read a light book, or just sit down in a comfy, quiet place for a while.
2. Catching your zzz’s
Go to bed at a suitable time. People may tell you to have an early night when you have a stressful day ahead of you, but if your natural sleeping time is 10:30pm, and you’re trying to hit the deck at 9pm, you’re probably going to get all worked up wondering why you’ve not fallen asleep. Find a balance – don’t have a lie in until 11am if you know you won’t sleep at 11pm. Routine is key.
3. Have a study plan
Set yourself a certain amount of study hours and stick to them. I personally work better by dividing my revision into topic chunks and giving myself a short break once I’ve finished a section. Remember to give yourself an hour for lunch and don’t have contact with anything study related. Don’t feel guilty for continuing to do things that you enjoy once you’ve completed the revision you set yourself for that day. Exams should not dictate how you live your life.
4. Food for thought
The way you eat plays an important part in eliminating stress. My former safe haven when faced with stressful decision-making was to counteract it with chocolate – lots of it. But while sugary and fatty foods may provide you with a short-term high, you’ll soon feel drained. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, protein foods and cereals may not always sound particularly appetising, but will keep blood sugar levels high and are very good for the brain.
5. Careful of the caffeine
Coffee, tea and cola can seem like your best friend when faced with deadlines and stressful decisions. However, they will increase your agitation and make sleeping more difficult. Instead, drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Herbal tea is also a fantastic alternative to your regular cuppa. My personal sleep inducing favourite is camomile and honey.
6. Avoid late night screens
Social media can seem like a good idea to pass the time while sat in bed, but don’t be fooled. Staying as far away as possible from the world inside my phone actually helped me fall asleep faster. The main reason for this is that looking at a screen for at least two hours before sleep suppresses the normal night time release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy.
Going on social media late at night exposes you to panic inducing dialogue too. Your friends own panic about not being prepared for the next exam, or mentioning what they put down for that last question that you can’t even remember seeing, or how easy they found it but you struggled to remember to write your name on the top of the paper! None of this helps you to stay calm and fall asleep.
7. Positive thinking
I found the best way to really relax was to change my mind-set. It is important to understand that your future does not rely solely on one exam result. Although good exam results will help you to achieve your goals, don’t feel that you can’t be successful without having a C in GCSE Geography. Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Zoella didn’t have a university degree. Success comes as a result of motivation and determination.
Don’t let exams define who you are and what you want to be.
Talk to Meic
If you feel you just can’t cope or want further advice or information then call the Meic helpline to talk to one of our friendly advisors.
Meic is an information and advocacy helpline for children and young people aged 0-25 in Wales. We are open 8am to midnight, 7 days a week. You can contact us free on the phone (080880 23456), text message (84001) or online chat.