Managing exam stress

Feeling tired? Can’t sleep? Wake up in the middle of the night worrying about whether you’ve done enough revision? You’re not alone – in the lead-up to your exams, it’s very common to feel stressed.

While it’s great that you’re taking your exams seriously, if you don’t manage your stress properly it can end up harming your chances of success – to say nothing of harming your physical and emotional wellbeing.

So what can you do to manage stress or anxiety? In the revision period:

• Plan your revision so that you have a clear idea of what you are going to revise and when. Allocate time based on your understanding of the subject and how you’ve performed in practice tests or mock exams.

• Print out your revision plan and stick it somewhere to keep track of your progress. Try to stick to the timings you’ve given yourself.

• Try to revise in a quiet and tidy space. If it helps, listen to music.

• Take regular breaks and stay hydrated. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol – water all the way.

• Tempting as it might be to keep studying for longer than planned, try to keep to the schedule and make sure you get plenty of rest.

• Speak to your employer about study leave and workload if you find you are struggling to keep on top of everything – they may have support and resources available to you.

• Remember your tutors are there to help, even once your classes are over. Make use of the forum on CIPFA Learning to discuss problems.

• If you feel it’s all getting a bit much, try some breathing exercises. This is a simple way to calm yourself when you’re feeling stressed. You can find good examples of breathing exercises at

• Eat properly. It may be tempting to eat lots of sugary snacks to get that instant burst of energy, but a sugar high is followed by a sugar low. Focus on a balanced diet with lots of protein for energy – snack on nuts for an instant boost.

• Try to build exercise into your day. Even something as simple as a 20-minute walk will recharge your batteries, activate endorphins and give you some fresh air. You might think this is taking you away from your revision, but you’ll come back to your studies feeling energised and refreshed.

During your exams, the above tips still apply – eat properly, get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated and remember the breathing exercises when you feel stressed. Try to avoid last-minute cramming on the day of your exam, if you can.

At CIPFA, we recognise that students can feel stressed, especially in the lead up to exams. Our trainers are always available in the classroom or online via CIPFA Learning, so students can talk to their tutor or to the Training Delivery Manager about any issues.

We are currently working with the CIPFA South East Student Network to develop a programme of support that can be rolled out to other areas. Examples of initiatives we are trialling include a mindfulness/breathing class during the revision period and the creation of a CIPFA Learning page for all students, which will contain wellbeing information and links to useful resources.

In the meantime, get in touch if you need advice or support, or with any suggestions for how CIPFA could better support student health and wellbeing: Alison Sweeting, Training Delivery