10 ways to keep your cool during exam season

With the impending doom of the Leaving Certificate just around the corner, and on-going university exams, we’re all feeling a bit frazzled.

Here’s a few ways to keep your cool during exam season, from one anxious mess to another.


(1) Feed your brain

We all know we’re supposed to be eating healthy food all the time, especially during exam season. During a heavy assignment week/exams, I’ll make a huge pot of something really comforting and have enough leftovers to keep me running for the next few days. A favourite of mine is pasta carbonara and spaghetti bolognaise as they last well in the fridge and they give you that warm, satisfied feeling after you’ve eaten. For breakfast, porridge is a favourite of mine as it’s cheap, fast, and keeps you full for ages.


I like to keep a little bowl of raisins on my desk for when I study but be wary of going overboard. When I’m studying I could go through a whole factory-load of M&Ms without even realising it. Junk food will make you feel sluggish and won’t give you the long-lasting energy you need when doing exams. Opt for eating an orange instead of that packet of crisps. Also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to keep the cogs in your brain working nicely.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep, too. I know this is impossible sometimes as you may need to stay up for those extra few hours to get your head around something, but even an hour or two of sleep before the exam will do you wonders.


(2) Clean your room, you filthy animal

By clean your room, I don’t mean go through everything you own and get distracted by all of the cool things that haven’t seen the light of day for the past year. Just spend 10 minutes making your bed, putting your laundry in your basket, and making your study space nice and clear.


(3) Study space

A good study space is super important. You’re going to want a nice bright area with good ventilation. Personalise your desk without going overboard and cluttering it up. I always keep my pens, highlighters and sticky notes within reach and have a few scented candles burning to make it a more pleasant atmosphere.


(4) Make a playlist

person-woman-music-pink-largeA lot of lecturers will tell you that listening to music while studying is a bad idea. I disagree. I usually listen to instrumental music while studying as it helps me focus for longer. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate with death metal in the background, or aggressive rap, but I know people who can. Find out what works for you and make a little playlist to have going in the background.


5) Lists

Making lists helps me feel like I’ve got some semblance of control over what’s going down. Usually I just get a sticky note and write out what I need to know so as I know exactly where I’m at. As you work your way through each topic, nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing something off the list.


(6) Breaks

pexels-photo-largeHave a little break every now and then. That’s not to say disappear downstairs to make a cup of tea and talk to your housemate for 4 hours, but sit on your bed and watch three five minute long youtube videos. Just pick something that doesn’t require a whole lot of brainpower and chose something that’s completely separate from the subject you’re studying. (A word of warning – don’t do what I did and start ‘House of Cards’ in the middle of exam season. I got completely hooked). 

Going for a walk helps too. Getting your body moving and fresh air in your lungs is almost like the human equivalent of hitting the reset button.


(7) Reach out

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, have a chat with someone. This can be a classmate, housemate, work buddy or family member. Never underestimate the power of venting. Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes and that’s completely normal. If the worst comes to the worst, you fail an exam. There’s always the chance to resit and it’s really not the end of the world. If you’re really struggling with the subject matter and can’t seem to wrap your head around it, pop one of your lecturers a little email. Lecturers have been students themselves and understand the pressure, and may take the time to go through the topic with you step by step.


(8) Mnemonics

Acronyms and mnemonics sentences are honestly my lifesaver during exam time. A mnem-what? What the hell is a mnemonic sentence? Well, let’s pretend I have to remember the ingredients to a mojito cocktail and I know for a fact I won’t remember the key words during the exam. List your keywords and then take the first letter and create a new phrase. For example:


Key words                                        Mnemonic sentence

Rum                       >                           Real

Mint                       >                           Mugs

Soda                       >                           Shoot

Lime                       >                           Like

Sugar                      >                           Snakes


Real mugs shoot like snakes sounds pretty ridiculous, right? But the more ridiculous the image, the easier it’ll be to remember. Take a second to connect this sentence to an image and once you get into the exam hall, flip your exam paper over and write out your mnemonic sentences. Match the beginning letters for the real key word and you’ll stay on track and make sure you’re not forgetting anything!


(9) Grounding techniques

There are countless grounding techniques you can use. You should experiment a little bit and see what works for you. What works for me is counting. During an exam, if I feel like I’m beginning to panic, I’ll do this:



5 things I can see : I might see the clock, invigilator, door, white-board and carpet.

4 things I can touch : My pen, table, jeans and hair.

3 things I can hear : Maybe someone is tapping their pen on the desk, a dog barking, a car passing. Focus on external things and not your thoughts.

2 things I can smell : The soap from washing your hands, your hair, your clothes, someone’s perfume.

1 thing I can taste : Maybe you had a cup of coffee before coming in, or you have a chewing gum.


This technique helps me to ground myself and it works outside the exam hall too.


(10) Reward yourself

If you feel like you’ve done a lot of work, reward yourself! Watch a good film, have a few Pringles (or a whole tube), and have a nice bath (you know, to wash away the tears, sweat, and Pringle dust). You deserve it.


I hope everyone’s exams go well and that you all get what you want from them.


Feeling overwhelmed? My inbox is always open so feel free to drop me a line if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps.


Good luck!

wesharepics.info ~


Image credit:

Featured image: thatyoutuberino.tumblr.com

Porridge : @Lainehh on Instagram

Stock photos: pexels.com

Puppy: myblacktears.tumblr.com

Work hard: wesharepics.info


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