How to deal with exam stress

14 July 2022

A financial services student struggling with exam stress.

Once you’ve worked through the units in your financial services course, it will be time to take your exam. As long as you’ve read through all the relevant modules in full and revised them to ensure that you’re well versed in every section, you should have no problem with taking on and passing the test. However, it’s not always as simple as that. If you’re struggling to deal with exam stress, you may be concerned that you could draw a blank as soon as you sit down to take the exam.

As stress can have such a negative impact on your wellbeing and your chances of passing exams, it’s important to find ways to remain calm. In this blog, we look at how exam stress can affect students, as well as providing our top tips for dealing specifically with CeMAP exam stress. This will include anxiety-reducing tips for both before and during your financial services exam.

How exam stress affects students

Although stress can affect people in different ways, it often involves feeling extremely worried, tense, irritable, negative and hopeless. For some, stress can lead to headaches, a loss of sleep, stomach pains, a reduced appetite and a sudden drop in interest towards things you usually enjoy.

When it comes to studying stress, the pressure of preparing for exams and tests can have very similar impacts. Many students report feelings of exacerbated stress and depression. Often peaking during the exam period, this stress can manifest itself in the form of insomnia (sleep loss), irritability, forgetfulness and even, in very serious cases, psychosis. It goes without saying, these effects can seriously impact an individual’s ability to prepare for and perform in exams. Luckily, there are methods of dealing with exam stress. 

How to deal with CeMAP exam stress

An essential part of becoming CeMAP qualified is passing your exams. For some people, however, the idea of sitting any kind of test fills them with dread and CeMAP exams are no different. The good news is that Simply Academy is here to offer support to ensure you’re prepared with all the knowledge and training you need to pass, but also to help minimise your exam stress.

How to reduce stress before an exam

It’s important that you take steps to minimise stress from the beginning of your course.

Start by limiting how much of the course material you try to learn at a time, taking regular 20 minute breaks and planning something to look forward to after working on your course, such as watching a film, playing video games or meeting up with friends.

You could also consider creating a journal of notes from your course, making a list of areas you need to perfect or setting out everything you need to learn from your course and ticking it off as you go along.

When it comes to the time just before your exam, you can do other things to eliminate stress. For example, you should:

  • Set realistic revision goals

When it comes to revision, if you try and tackle everything all at once, you may feel overwhelmed and panic may set in. In this state of mind, you’re highly unlikely to be productive and that will only make your exam stress worse.

Instead, consider breaking revision down into manageable chunks that will fit into the time you’ve got. Be realistic and set goals that are achievable. You’ll feel a great sense of achievement as you get through your revision and will soon achieve your goals.

  • Exercise 

When you exercise, you’re helping to oxygenate the brain and release tension. In turn, this can help when it comes to staying calm and mentally relaxed. This can make study and revision easier. With this in mind, try to make sure you include at least half an hour of exercise in your schedule each day.

  • Eat, sleep and stay hydrated

If you start to feel stressed in the run up to your CeMAP exams, you may find yourself slipping into bad habits with diet, sleep and exercise.

Convenient, unhealthy food may seem tempting but will not help your exam stress levels nor your ability to concentrate. Take time to eat some healthy food including slow release carbohydrates. Drinking plenty of water is also important. This way you’ll ensure your brain and body are hydrated and have a good supply of oxygen to perform at their best. You’ll also enjoy some stress-busting endorphins as well.

  • Cut down on caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
    Caffeine is a stimulant that is proven to increase your stress levels, and the same applies to nicotine. For this reason, try to avoid drinking more than one cup of regular coffee per day and cut down on smoking and/or nicotine vaping if possible.

Similarly, you should try to limit alcohol consumption during exam periods. Alcohol can act as a depressant. This means it can not only lead to unhelpful hangovers, but it can also send your anxiety levels through the roof.  

  • Listen to music as you revise 

Although not everyone can concentrate with music playing in the background, listening to your favourite tunes can create a positive and productive study environment. In turn, this can elevate your mood, reduce stress and encourage you to study more effectively and for longer.

  • Reduce time on social media platforms

If you are a frequent social media user, try taking a break from these platforms during exam periods. Avoiding checking apps like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok will save you from wasted time checking your feed and prevent you from feeling stress, anxiety and feelings of ‘FOMO’ – all of which can be detrimental to your revision. 

  • Speak to friends and family about how you’re feeling

You don’t have to go through exam anxiety alone. Friends and family are there to support you. So, if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to open up. A problem shared is a problem halved, and when it comes to exam stress, having that extra little bit of support can make all the difference.

How to manage stress during exams

If you’ve been stressed about your exam for some time, the feeling of anxiousness may become unbearable when it actually comes to taking your exam. To combat these feelings during your exam, you could:

  • Take deep breaths

It may sound silly but breathing can really help beat exam stress. Either before or during your CeMAP exams, if you start to feel overwhelmed then take a moment to take some slow, deep breaths. You will not only feel calmer and better able to focus but you’ll also send plenty of oxygen to your brain, helping it work on those CeMAP questions. 

  • Try to remain confident

You’ve done all the training you need to do. You’ve completed practice papers and re-read your notes. You’re ready! Focus, trust in your training and your exams will be over before you know it.

  • Pace yourself

Yes, you have got a time limit for your CeMAP exams, but don’t panic and rush. This will only increase your stress levels and you’ll stop thinking clearly. Instead, concentrate, read the questions properly and answer only once you’ve thought clearly. This is to say,  take your time but also stay mindful of the clock. 

  • Don’t overthink questions
    One of the largest causes of exam anxiety is the fear of not being able to answer a question mid-exam. With this in mind, it’s all too easy to tie yourself up in knots, looking for answers to questions that have not even been asked. To keep stress levels at bay, if you find yourself really struggling to answer a particular question on your CeMAP exam, move on to the next question and come back to it later.  

To an extent, exam stress affects all students, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed, frustrated or disappointed with yourself if you feel like you need support. It may not help to speak to other people who are also doing the same course as you in case their worries add to how stressed you feel.

However, you should consider speaking to your tutor, as they will be able to provide you with help and support with managing stress during the process of completing your course.

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