Tips for Surviving Exam Week

IMG_3456Perspective is the Key:

Yes, exam week is painful but it is not impossible to make it through successfully. Perspective is everything in successful survival. Exam week is pain is short term. Create an image of how great you will feel, and what life will be like, the moment you write your last exam. Relief….Freedom…Time with Friends…Rest….create a full image for yourself. THIS is what you are working toward; this is why you are in pain now.

“Will Work Hard for Freedom!”

 Work First Play Later:

  • There is a wonderful English saying, “just get stuck in” that describes the power of just getting started. Often, before you know it, you are “stuck in” the study phase, just by getting started. So, start with creating a study plan (what needs to be studied and when), open your books, shut off your justifying mind (shut down the generation of “10,000 reasons why I don’t feel like it” and replace it with “reasons why I will feel better once it’s done”) and just get started.


  • Create a state of focus. Use music to study, ideally music without words. The power of music to motivate, focus and increase brain function when studying. The proof is in the science! Check out one of my previous Blogs: Baroque Music. Also, try Songza: “Working no Lyrics” Theme


  • Develop your study routine and organize your space.
  • Tools: have your study tools accessible (favourite pens, calculator, computer, paper, highlighters, etc.). When you have to search for stuff, you are more likely to get distracted from your main task of studying.
  • Study Space: try to set up a study place that remains the same throughout exam time, keep this space organized and only use it for studying. If you study on your bed, there are two triggered responses, sleep or study. I guarantee sleep will win if you study on your bed!


  • Reward yourself often. There are no rules saying that studying must be completely painful. Take breaks, play video games, socialize, check your social media, watch a movie, etc. Work first…play later and reward yourself often. If you lessen the pain of studying, you are more likely to do it.

Emotional Self-Awareness:

  • Know that it is likely that you will be more “irrational”, and possibly prone to making bad decisions when you are one, or all of the following:

Student StudyingH: Hungry

A: Angry

L: Lonely

T: Tired

HALT! Stop! If you are feeling any of these. Go and eat something, find a way to deal with the anger, socialize or take a rest break. Student are more likely to give up, drop out or make any other irrational decision in these states.

Social Studying:

  • If you have a friend that you work well with, study with them. People can help you to keep on task, help you to take breaks when you need them and social connections can help make you feel less alone during this high stress time.


  • Take Fun Breaks! To maximize your studying, consider taking a walk, take a power nap, chat with friends or even (large “GASP” is heard from the adults in your life) check Facebook/Twitter/Vine/Instagram.  The point is to recharge your brain battery, give it a rest. The brain functions way better when it does a task switch. Once your tank of mental fuel is full again, get back to work. But this time, you’ll feel much more energized and ready to tackle the demands of test prep.


You are not alone, please reach out if you need to!

I would love to hear from you.

Dr. Heather Drummond, EdD (Counselling Psychology)

Coach * Professor * Relentless Advocate for Student Success
Mohawk College – Fennell Campus – “The Square” – C102

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