The 8 stages of facing exams after the Christmas break


Returning to university in January after blissful weeks of relaxation is quite often a shock to the system for students. The prospect of opening your books again and revising can take you through an unexpected rollercoaster of emotions! It’s completely normal to feel anxious (and even a bit demotivated) during the run-up to exams. Most students will generally go through not one, not two, but eight emotional stages when they’re revising. So, what are these eight stages and how should you deal with them?

1. Denial

What you’re feeling: Christmas has only just ended – some folks still have their trees up – so you’ve got bags of time before you really need to crack on with revision. Besides, you’d be mad to start studying when some people aren’t even back at university yet, right?!

How to handle it: Deep down, you know that the earlier you start, the better your results will be. Why? Because you’ll have more time to rest and take breaks (which means your motivation levels will stay high) and you’ll feel more able to absorb all the information you need to succeed.

2. Procrastination

What you’re feeling: Now that most of your friends are back, you might as well catch up with them to find out all their Christmas gossip. Everyone’s still in high spirits, so it’d be a shame not to socialise. Also, you’ve already gone to the effort of making yourself a colour-coded list of everything you need to revise, so you’re pretty much sorted, whenever you’re ready to start.

How to handle it: Revising for exams doesn’t mean you have to hibernate! If you haven’t already, create a detailed exam timetable and make sure that after each study session, you factor in something that you enjoy doing, whether it’s catching up with friends or Netflix. This will help you stay positive and boost your motivation to study!

3. Panic

What you’re feeling: So, you thought you’d take another look at that revision list you made… bad idea. It’s longer than you remember. Why did you think it’d be OK to leave everything until now? How is that much revision in so little time even possible? You’re really starting to panic now. If this stage was an emoji, it’d be the face-screaming-in-fear emoji.

How to handle it: If you’re starting to panic, stop, breathe and take the time to relax. Even if you dedicate just 20 minutes to yoga or meditation, this will temporarily take your mind off your work. Then, when you’re ready to revise again, you’ll feel so much more focused and confident. Humour is another great way to release tension, so if you can fit it in, watch an episode of your favourite comedy series.

4. Confusion

What you’re feeling: Um, so you were feeling anxious enough already, but now even that friend from your course who never studies has gone really quiet. Alarmingly quiet. They didn’t even text back when you casually asked if they’d started that book you’re supposed to have read. What’s happening? Could they be revising? Why is this book so long? Why won’t anyone answer my texts? HELLO?!

How to handle it: Woah, woah, woah. Calm down there. Everything will be OK. If you’re confused about what you should do next (and what you should actually be revising), don’t be afraid to ask your tutor or lecturer for help. That’s what they’re there for, after all.

5. Despair

What you’re feeling: Revision is the worst. You’d somehow forgotten it could be this bad. The floor in your uni room has become a sea of textbooks and all you want to do is swim away from them. Far, far away. Why can’t books revise themselves? You wish you had a superpower and could memorise words, pages, or even entire books… This isn’t fair. January days are slipping by and you can’t understand where Christmas went.

How to handle it: Make sure that everything you revise is essential, so you know you’re being as efficient as possible with your time. Even if time’s running out, it’s really important to take regular breaks and get enough sleep. Don’t stay up late cramming the night before.

6. Acceptance

What you’re feeling: That’s it, you’ve actually got to do this if you ever want to get a degree. If you try really, really hard now, there’s still a chance you’ll pass. You can barely read the pages upon pages of notes you’ve furiously scrawled, but they’re all you’ve got, so you’d better get used to your own handwriting. You can do this!

How to handle it: That’s the attitude! You’ve got this. Now that you’re in the right mindset, you need to remember to eat well (but if you’re craving sugar, we recommend eating dark chocolate, as this releases endorphins that fight stress hormones) and sleep well (try and get between six and eight hours each night as this will help your brain assimilate new information and concentrate).

7. Relief

What you’re feeling: The exams are over, your papers are handed in and you can smell freedom. It smells like sleep, relaxation and celebration. Like nights out with friends and cheesy chips on the way home. You can finally have some chill time (until the next lot of exams, but let’s not worry about those just yet)…

How to handle it: Enjoy yourself.

8. Satisfaction

What you’re feeling: The best part about the exam? You actually did it. On reflection, you realise you walked into those exams knowing far more than you thought you did. Revision actually worked!

How to handle it: If you still didn’t get the result that you’d hoped for, don’t panic. Talk to your tutor at university. The likelihood is that you’ll be able to refresh your knowledge and resit the exams. Good luck!

How many of these stages have you been through already? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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