Managing post-exam stress

 By Jared Oundo

Now that your examinations are done and dusted and you assumed you would be feeling a whole lot better, didn’t you? The truth is that for most students, concluding their exams simply leads to a new tension and stress phase: The dreaded waiting (and waiting) for your exam results. Now you can choose to either drive yourself completely mad worrying about how things will turn out, or you can choose to “let it go” until you have real feedback to work with. If you prefer the sound of the latter, here’s how to go about it:

Whatever you do, do not go over the exam questions again

It is over; you can’t change your answers after submitting your answer sheet, so why torture yourself like this? There really is no point playing the “woulda coulda shoulda” game after doing a test.

Consider the worst case

So what if you fail? Will it really be the end of the world? The short answer is: No. Understandably it is not part of your original plan, and sure there will be some less than ideal impacts, but knowing what these are and coming up with a backup plan will help you feel more prepared.

Keep your expectations in check

It is vital to remain realistic about your grade expectations just after exam. If for example Chemistry has never been a strong point, don’t set yourself up for disillusionment by only being happy with an A.  Determine your realistic contented place by evaluating your strengths as well as the amount of effort you put into your exam preparation.

Talk about it

If you are feeling really stressed out, don’t bottle things up. You definitely need to talk to friends, teachers and family about how you are feeling. Your friends might even be feeling exactly the same, so then you can help each other get through it. Also remember that your family’s there to love and support you, no matter what.  Don’t be afraid to lean on them a little more during this time.

Post Exam Stress

Consider these strategies for combating the stress that you encounter once your pen is down and you have left the exam room.

Don’t Talk About It-Once you have submitted your answer sheet there is nothing you can do to reverse what you have written. Avoiding the post exam discussion will prevent any negative thoughts from entering your mind and help you avoid post exam stress.

Don’t go back through your notes looking for mistakes.

Accept lack of control in changing it- Once the pen is down and you leave the room suddenly you lose control and your exam script disappears into the ether, where someone will mark it and return it to you.

Overcome the fear of failure- The fear of failure is a prime reason for after exam stress. It is likely that it is the fear of failure rather than the failure itself that is troubling you.

Trust your processes– Think about top performing sportsmen; they are not going to be on top of their game and having a blinder every single time. There will be ups and downs. But the way they get through the downs is to make sure that their training processes and mental preparation continue. Form is temporary but it will always return. Exams operate in the same manner. If you did the preparation and did your best in the exam room then you can be happy with that.

Relax after exam

Unless you have another exam the very next day it does help to have pre-planned a relaxing unwinding activity right after the exam. Plan to watch a movie, go to yoga, and go out to dinner.

Make sure you actively relax in your holidays

It can be hard to wind down after one exam and get yourself back up for another in the coming days or weeks.

Plan something to look forward to

It doesn’t have to be an overseas trip or anything big, just plan any fun activity for the day after your results are released. This way you have something to look forward to. Also, if you do well, it’ll be a celebration party of sorts, and if things don’t quite turn out the way you wanted, it should at least cheer you up.

Pre and Post-Exam Rituals

These were my post-pre-exam rituals. You should try them out. They really worked for me. If this doesn’t work for you (because we are different) then you should find out what works for you.

Pre-Exam

  • Run around the field in the evening and morning hours
  • I would get a haircut too close to the exams or shave the last couple of days before a test
  • Always tried to get a good night’s rest
  • I always listened to motivational disks on the way to the exam.
    Post-Exam:
  • Take break off studies for a while
  • Always involved going out
  • I sometimes took a vacation after exams.
  • Going to college football games
  • I had rewards for passing an exam or attaining a designation. I could buy myself gifts because no one could buy for me.

 The Writer, Jared Oundo, is a published Author, trainer and consultant

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