Reaching exam success with happiness and wellbeing in mind

Sophia Fergus
A girl sat at a desk in a with her head leaning on one hand smiling at the camera

Are you or your students preparing for an exam like The International Certificate (PTE General)? If so, you might find that things are more stressful than usual or that motivation is starting to lack. When preparing to take an exam, it’s easy to overlook the fact that people also need to destress and relax a little.

Exam preparation is an important period. That’s why we’ve come up with some tips and advice that will help increase happiness and well-being. It will also help develop good study habits and ensure you or your students remain happy right up to their exams and beyond.

1. Create a study plan

A clear plan can help you get off to a positive start. At the same time, it will inevitably lead to more confidence and better results on the big day. Make sure to gather all the materials and equipment you will need (or provide your students with a list of what they need to gather). Once prepared, set up a comfortable workspace where you will feel happy to spend time. If you’re a teacher, you can ask your students to describe their ideal study spaces in class – this will help them visualize what they need to do at home!

It's also helpful to create a schedule where you write down what you need to work on and when. Try to include all areas of the exam but prioritize those areas that may need more work and improvement.

2. Take time out

If you're starting to feel anxious or stressed as the exam day comes nearer, here are some ideas to help manage:

Take a break

It’s better to study for short periods rather than spending hours on end at their desk. It’s a good idea to break up study periods and take a short break at regular intervals. If possible, also go outside and get some fresh air at least once a day.

Try mindfulness techniques

Guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Petit BamBou can help reduce stress and prepare learners to focus better on their studies. You can also find guided meditation videos and audio tracks on Youtube or Spotify.

Be positive

Remember how far you’ve progressed and celebrate what you can do, and if you’re an educator encourage them to visualize themselves confidently completing the exam.

3. Have fun!

Although exam practice and reviewing are important parts of preparing for an exam, you can also have some fun. Play games and base activities around a variety of different media, including short videos and podcasts and other forms of entertainment.

Make English a part of your leisure time. Watch series or films in English, listen to music or choose podcasts related to your interests. A good tip is to look for English-language alternatives to any materials or media usually consumed.

4. Stay healthy

The stress caused by exams can result in bad habits, and eating unhealthily – fast food, snacks and caffeine can provide a false sense of energy. However, the food we eat and drink can greatly affect our body and mind. A healthy diet can improve our mood, our memory and our levels of concentration:

  • Healthy carbs such as brown rice, pasta, whole grain bread and cereals will provide the necessary energy to allow students to keep working through the day.
  • Oily fish like salmon and sardines are great for the brain, heart and joints, as well as increasing serotonin which makes us feel good!
  • Other sources of Omega 3 such as nuts and seeds are a great substitute for vegans.
  • A variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure that students have a balanced diet that will improve memory, brainpower and mental agility.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is essential for learning to take place. The time you spend asleep is just as important as the time you spend awake. You should aim to sleep for 8 hours a night. This will help your brain to recharge, allowing you to start the day with energy and focus.

It’s especially important that you sleep well the day before the exam. This will help you relax and ensure that you are alert and ready to give your best performance.

6. Offer incentives

If you are studying intensively or for a long time, motivation levels may start to drop. If you’re a teacher and you see this is the case, your class will need some additional support and encouragement to help them keep going. Small rewards can help with this.

Teacher: You can offer rewards in class by allowing students to choose an activity they enjoy, but it’s also useful for students to give themselves rewards for any goals they set and accomplish. This personalization will make the reward even more satisfying.

Self-learner: When you get to certain checkpoints of your study make sure to reward yourself with something small that you enjoy. Small rewards include things like listening to your favorite song, eating a sweet treat or watching a funny video.

7. Reduce the workload

As the exam approaches, make sure to gradually slow down. Rather than trying to learn something new, spend the last few days reviewing what you’ve studied and practice English as much as you can. On the day before the exam, do something completely different, like go for a long walk or watch a good film. Just to get your mind to wind down and relax before your exam, which will likely be quite demanding on the brain.

On the theme of English exams and tests, make sure to read our post Reducing Exam Day Stress or Using Exam Errors to Perfect your English. 

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