Coping With Exam Stress

With deadlines and exams looming, this time of year can be a particularly tough time for us students. Regardless of whether you’re in first or final year, the stress and pressures of exams never seem to change. However, the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Guild of Students offer a lot of support and provide various methods for tackling exam anxiety. Here are some useful tips…

The University of Liverpool’s Wellbeing Week runs from 30th April to 4th May 2018, offering a range of activities, from exercise classes to meditation sessions. Exercise is a great way to tackle stress and reduce anxiety. Throughout the Wellbeing Week, staff and students will have free access to the University of Liverpool’s Sport Centre. Find out more here.

On the 1st of May the Liverpool Guild of Students is hosting a Meet the Guide Dogs session – where you get to pet puppies! Evidence suggests that stroking dogs has beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety [1]. You can you book your place here.

As part of the Wellbeing Week, there will be a Mindfulness Webinar with Dr Mike Scanlan on Mindfulness for Professions. This session offers a detailed introduction to what Mindfulness is and how you can utilise a more Mindful lifestyle to reduce stress and anxiety (very useful during the exam period). This takes place on Monday 30th April from 3.30pm to 4.30pm. You can register here.

Although trying to find a seat in the Sydney Jones during exam periods can be harder than finding a sun lounger on holiday, the university does offer a few technical tools to make accessing the computer services easier during busy periods. You can use the PC Finder tool to locate free PC seats in both the main libraries and other PC centres. There are also speed stations located in the Rendall building (next to the Eleanor Rathbone Building) which can be used for quick tasks such as printing or checking emails. Additionally, the print anywhere service allows you to print from your own laptop or phone without using a campus computer.

There are also a few simple things you can do yourself to reduce exam stress. Firstly, prepare and plan your time well – make a revision timetable and make sure you’ve got enough time to cover all the topics that you need to learn for your exam. For more advice on exam preparation, click here.

Second, make sure you take regular breaks. Revising for long periods of time is cognitively exhausting – our brains use a massive amount of energy relative to its size [2]. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks has a positive effect on your attention [3]. So, go outside and get some fresh air or watch an episode of something on Netflix – allow your brain to switch off and relax.

Thirdly, look after your health. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. The Liverpool Guild of Students offers free fruit in the Sydney Jones library during exam periods, so make the most of this. There is an abundance of evidence showing the importance of sleep for forming, encoding and consolidating memories [4]. So, it’s important to make sure you get enough sleep, both whilst you’re revising and the night before the exam.

Finally, treat yourself! Just because you have exams doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you enjoy. Planning to do something you enjoy will make you more productive whilst revising.

Sometimes the stress and anxiety can feel like too much to deal with on your own. If you feel that you’re suffering, the University of Liverpool offers numerous free and confidential services, including the counselling service, mental health advisory service and the disability support team.

Throughout the exam period, it’s important to keep perspective – exams won’t last forever! All your hard work will pay off in the long run and a fun-filled summer will be here before you know it!


[1] Katcher, A. H. (1985). Physiologic and behavioral responses to companion animals: The veterinary clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice, 15, 403–410.

[2] Madsen, P. L., Cruz, N. F., Sokoloff, L., & Dienel, G. A. (1999). Cerebral oxygen/glucose ratio is low during sensory stimulation and rises above normal during recovery: excess glucose consumption during stimulation is not accounted for by lactate efflux from or accumulation in brain tissue. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 19(4), 393-400.

[3] Ariga, A., & Lleras, A. (2011). Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 118(3), 439-443.

[4] Stickgold, R. (2005). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature, 437(7063), 1272.



Written By
More from Patsy Irizar

Music and culture: what’s on in liverpool this summer

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Liverpool rightfully earning the title...
Read More