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Five Tips for Dealing with Stress During Exam Time

Stress. It’s something we all deal with. However, millennials report the highest stress levels of all Americans. College students can especially feel stressed during the last few weeks of the semester, finishing up projects and papers and preparing for and taking those final exams. While this is always likely to be a stressful time, here are several ways to help manage and reduce your stress:


Research shows that studying in increments is more effective than cramming. If you can make a plan to study the material several times with space in between these times, you should be able to better retain the material.

So plan ahead and break up your studying into regularly scheduled sessions. Figure out the time increments for your sessions that are effective for you (some suggest 30-40 minutes) and separate those sessions with 5-10 minute breaks. Switch back and forth between the different topics you are studying to allow for that spacing and repetition mentioned above.


When you finally sit down to study, if you find yourself constantly tempted to check the latest news on Twitter or binge watch another season of Parks and Rec on Netflix, you may want to find a way to cut out these distractions. The Freedom app for PC users and the Self Control app for Mac users allow you to block your own access to distracting apps and websites for a specified period of time.

If your environment is a distraction, try a new one. In fact, some research has shown that alternating the room in which you study can improve retention. So perhaps consider studying in several different locations.

You may like to listen to music while studying. While studies show differing results on whether listening to music helps or hinders retention while studying, most seem to conclude that music with vocals can be more of a distraction than a benefit. So if you enjoy listening to music, you may want to consider classical music or an instrumental version of your favorite artist.


Take a break from studying to get some exercise. Not only will it relieve stress, but research shows that it improves memory and your ability to concentrate. So go for a walk or jog, or hit the gym. Radford University and Virginia Tech both offer a variety of free group fitness classes during exam week!


Food fuels your brain for studying. So try not to get so wrapped up in studying that you skip meals or snack only on potato chips. Nuts, whole grains, apples, berries, and even dark chocolate are just a few great snack options that have been shown to help with studying.


Getting adequate sleep is crucial to successful performance on exams. According to one study, short-term side effects of sleep deprivation include delayed reactions and tendencies to make mistakes – both of which are less than ideal for test taking.

This study also found that pulling an all-nighter can impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days. So if you’re tempted to stay up later or pull an all-nighter on the night before or even the week of an exam, consider that sleep will probably end up being more effective than that last minute cramming.

For more information to help you to think about how sleep affects you as a student, check out this quiz developed by Harvard.

We at Valley Women’s Clinic hope that these five tips will help ease your stress as finals approach and that you have a successful end to the semester.

If, on top of the stress of exams, you’re dealing with the stress of a potential unintended pregnancy, we can help. Request an appointment at our Blacksburg or Radford office for a free pregnancy test, as well as the opportunity to talk with a client advocate and our medical staff about your situation. All of our services are free and confidential.

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