10 tips for coping with exam stress

Updated: 01 February 2023

Coping with exam stress GRE to GMAT

You begin to feel butterflies in your stomach and your mouth starts to get dry. Your head starts to get foggy and you lose focus on what’s important. All you’re thinking about is this uncomfortable sensation which is now beginning to make you sweat… we like to call this, “Exam stress.”

We’ve all been there before and we want to ensure you don’t experience this feeling (at least that’s our goal).

Keep reading on how these top 10 tips can help cope with exam stress — there is no reason why you should worry, you got this!

Easy ways to cope with exam stress

Follow these tips to maximize effectiveness and minimize stress — nothing is worse than a restless mind right before your exam:

1. Drink herbal tea, and avoid coffee

There’s this preconceived notion that coffee should be the main energy source to staying alert and focused. We know that coffee is extremely delicious and helps us stay awake, but it can cause negative effects to our bodies (aka: “the shakes”).

Before your exam swap-out that coffee for a cooling peppermint tea that will help “wake-up” your brain and keep you attentive. Herbal tea is very underrated but fun fact: herbal tea is naturally caffeine-free and will help relax your nerves.

Top herbal teas for focusing: chamomile, ginger tea, peppermint tea, hibiscus tea, and echinacea tea.

2. Take a shower or bath

Nothing is better than grabbing that herbal tea and taking a hot bath (or shower). This will give your body the rest it needs to decompress all the pre-stress for your next day exam.

Submerging your body into hot water provides a multitude of health benefits: stress relief, muscle relaxation, and improved sleep — everything you need in order to successfully crush that exam.

Pro tip: while you’re running that bath, throw in a lavender bath-bomb — perfect scent for muscle relaxation, and improves a resting mind.

3. Take regular breaks

Give yourself permission to step away from the books, and take a break. It’s important to remember small breaks throughout the day in order for your muscle memory to absorb all the information.

The same way you need a break, so does your body and brain; a small break will help recharge your focus when studying, and create even more productivity and energy.

4. Get some exercise

Working out isn’t only beneficial for your physical health, but your mental health, too. Physical activity releases special endorphins that leave your body feeling energized. Nothing feels better than sweating it out at the gym and releasing all those negative thoughts, and toxins.

There’s a reason why physical education in school was required since it only takes 20-minutes of intense exercise to enhance your focus and concentration. This is also a good time for you to take a step-back and direct attention on something else other than your exam.

Helpful tip: Purchase a workout mat for quick physical exercise right at home.

5. Surround yourself with optimistic people (also, study buddies)

In order to accomplish your goals you must surround yourself with individuals who are also motivated to succeed. As a society we thrive by surrounding ourselves with other people who exude positive energy. Imagine always being around someone who disliked school, and wasn’t motivated — this might influence you to act the same.

Being around other people who care will increase your desire to work harder, and focus more on what matters. Taking an exam is not always easy but if you have a supported group of individual by your side you will feel less alone the day of the exam.

6. Set realistic goals

Grab a piece of paper and jot down a few goals you would like to see yourself accomplish before the day of the exam. This will not only help keep you organized and on track of what you need to study, but will keep you accountable. The most satisfying thing to do after creating a list of goals is checking them off once they are completed.

You can physically see what you have accomplished which in turn will make you feel more prepared for the day of exam. This is a great way to set yourself up for success by realistically creating a list of goals you know you can achieve.

7. Stay positive

When you stay positive your mindset is at ease which gives you the ability to focus and concentrate more on each question of the exam. If you continue to stay positive and think rationally you can manifest what you want to happen. Thinking the worst will only impact you negatively and redirect your mind elsewhere.

A positive way of thinking about any exam will not only help you stay calm and confident, but will exude energy onto your other classmates making it contagious. The power of positively will only take you further than you imagined.

8. Study well in advance

Biggest top tip: Don't procrastinate and wait last minute to study for your exam. This will not only make you more nervous and stressed the day of, but will decrease your chances of success.

Studies show that it’s actually worse for your brain to cram information all at once in such a short period of time. This does not give your brain enough time to process the information it needs in order to absorb the important facts. You will be causing your brain to be overworked which will lead you feeling anxious, fatigued, and frustrated.

9. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of being aware of your body’s language and needs. Simply by moving your body, concentrating on specifically one part of your body at a time, or practicing the art of breathing — mindfulness will keep you grounded.

It's an incredibly effective way to transform your body and mind into a ‘peaceful retreat’. This is the best way to just recharge yourself and start fresh.

Useful tip: download any meditation app on your phone and spend at least 5-10 minutes daily practicing mindfulness — you will thank us later.

10. Sleep!

Think about your body like a battery — it needs to be charged every night in order for it to fully function the next day. You will be doing yourself a disservice by not staying under the covers and sleeping, but instead setting yourself up for failure by not properly giving your body what it deserves.

Ironically enough — you may think staying up late and cramming late night sessions is the answer, but plot twist … it actually effects your memory more. Sleep helps your brain process the information more effectively once you’ve had a restful sleep.

Bonus tip

Try not to focus too much on your grades! Clear your head, do the revision, and you'll do just fine. If you're doing the GRE exam and want to go to business school, learn how to convert GRE to GMAT scores to see if you can get in to your ideal school.