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The Final Leg of the Race – Stress Management and Motivation Pearls to Keep You Moving

By: Sohaib Haseeb, 3rd year Life Sciences student

It’s that time of the year again – week 12, and exams. The last eleven weeks have taken a toll on us, and studying is not what we want to be doing right now. But exams are right around the corner, and exam stress is at its all-time high.

You may feel there’s nothing that can be done about the stress during this time. Assignments and papers all due around the same time, extracurricular responsibilities all cram up in week 12, and there’s not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.

It’s time to take charge. No matter how stressful life seems at the moment, there are steps that we can take to manage stress and take control:

1. Steps to maintain motivation

Have you ever sat down with a textbook and stared at the page blankly for hours until you finally give up? I know I have. Exam studying is one of the most daunting tasks for us undergrads – the stress of approaching exams, and the sense that we have to cram an overwhelming amount of information in our brains can have a huge toll on our motivation to study.

Here are some things you can try to boost concentration and motivation, and get on with the studying that needs to be done:


Small actions add up

As an ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – this can go a long way. Begin with a small step – prepare your study space and remove distractions – stuff like that!

Take Action

Practice SMART goals. Well-thought-out goals can serve as powerful motivation for us students. Write them down, avoid vagueness, and work towards completing them in a timely manner. They not only serve as objectives to keep you focused, but also provide an opportunity for extrinsic rewards.

Try something new

Don’t feel confined to the strategies you’ve always used. If something isn’t working, like a habit or a way of taking notes, try something else. Take things one at a time, and evaluate at the end of a task to ensure that you’ve completed the task to the best of your abilities


2. In the weeks before – Put exams into perspective

All exams are important, but when time is limited, prioritization is key. Knowing which exam to prioritize can vary from person to person, but some useful techniques are to determine the % value of the exam, and to calculate the existing grade up to this point, and then determine what grade is needed to maintain or reach your goal.

Study schedules are your friend. Download our Exam Prep study schedule and try to see if it works for you. If I were to go back in first year and tell my mini-me something to do, it would be to make study schedules, and to stick to them.

Join a study group and self-test each other using past exams from Queen’s Exam Bank, or make your own from class material.


3. Practice relaxation daily and always look on the positive side!

It’s all too easy to overlook your health and overwork yourself, and added stress certainly worsens the situation. Try deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises every day, take breaks, or go out for a run if that’s your thing. Tell yourself you can do it, because you can! We’re all at Queen’s University, and that in itself is a big achievement! We are all trying our best to do the tasks at hand in the time given, and that’s all we can ask of ourselves.


4. Before and During the exam

Breathe! Drink water, or listen to music – go ahead and dance! You’ve done your best, prepared your hard, and this is the easy bit. Do the exam with confidence, and keep calm during the exam. If it works for you, set mini-breaks during the exam at specific points where you stop writing and take a break, and let your mind rest.

accomplished gif

Don’t forget to reward yourself after the exam, and affirm your strengths and successes!

In the end, remind yourself that this won’t go on forever. Exam period is one of the most stressful times in our lives. Grab a friend and share your thoughts with them, they can probably relate very well. All you need to do is take action; we can control them, so why not do so right now and get through these exams – it’s the final leg of the race, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

person throwing papers int he air and spinning

Photos courtesy of CollegeDegrees360 and Ray Morris, under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.