Exam shenanigans: challenges, proctoru and managing stress

Completing exam paper

Completing an exam paper

Ahh exam season is upon us – a challenging time even if you are incredibly well prepared and confident. The lead up to exams, the actual exam and reflections post-exam can involve a wide range of emotions.

My last couple weeks have been a more stressful time than usual (with two exams now completed, thankfully)! Admittedly, I definitely felt the burn out and my motivation closer to the exams started to diminish. Nevertheless, pushing myself to study was important and I had to remind myself that it was only temporary agony!

I often find that prior to studying, I will procrastinate like crazy but as soon as I start, I become focused and tend to really enjoy what I am revising for. Do you ever have this feeling? Then regret that you didn’t engage more with the subject during the semester… Feelings of major regret always dawn upon me - whether it’s regretting not starting earlier or regretting not focusing more during the semester. Regret, frustration and distress are common emotions that can arise during the exam period. Remember everyone is in the same boat but it is important that you acknowledge and manage your stress levels (as well as develop coping strategies).

The big elephant in the room is the university’s use of ProctorU this semester for a selected number of exams. This is something new from what most of us have experienced but understandably a reasonable decision to uphold academic integrity and accreditation standards. Nevertheless, this would heighten stress levels already present, and it is important to recognise the added layer of pressure. Handling things outside your control is tough and accepting this modification - and studying hard - is an exceptional thing to do. ProctorU is here and it’s important to you prepare your mind to handle this change.

Although I was lucky enough to escape ProctorU (benefits of open book!), I have had semesters with one exam and some with four in one week so I understand the pressure and stress that comes with exams. Ensure you have read the guidelines surrounding ProctorU, so you are aware and prepared here. And below find some advice/tips to ensure you are feeling your best while studying and undertaking your exams!

1. Organise, organise and organise!

Certain exams will test your knowledge of the past twelve weeks and some will test you on a few topics. It is important that you know what content is examinable and divide your time accordingly. I tend to create an exam cover page with the list of topics, time and date of the exam. Organising how I will divide my time for studying puts my mind at ease instead of feeling rushed and having something unexpected pop up because I didn’t organise my thoughts well!

2. Sleep: play to your strengths

Are you a night owl or an early riser? It’s important to know this to determine whether it’s worth trying to study until the early hours or sleeping early and waking up early to study. I’ve recently learnt that I would rather head to bed before 12am than stay up studying and wake up feeling dreadful. You kind of have to undertake a cost-benefit analysis on whether it’s worth pushing yourself to study late and how that will impact your health and mood the next day!

3. Learn to know when to stop

I’ve improved on my ability to weigh up whether it will make a huge difference if I cram more and more information in my brain. I would recommend finishing all notes and past exam preparation the day before your exam – and spend the day of your exam calmly reading over your notes. The two hours (or more) brain power you will need for an exam is burdensome enough on one’s brain – will it make an extraordinary difference if you decide to take a breather beforehand? Around an hour before my exams, I listen to calming music, walk off the nerves and make sure I’ve eaten healthily. I feel a lot better than the times I have obsessively looked over my notes and neglected to eat or move around beforehand!

4. Accept and move forward

Often it can be hard to move on from an exam you haven’t felt confident with (especially when the exam time finishes and there’s endless messenger notifications of everyone’s reactions and responses – shoutout to the DRE law cohort). And while it’s important to engage in these conversations (because there is always the mutual consensus that the exam was difficult which is comforting when everyone feels this way), there’s not much you can do once the exam is finished. You can’t add more to your answers or remove a sentence you miswrote. I like to plan a fun catch up or night out after a big exam so my mind has something to look forward to instead of dwelling on my post-exam thoughts. I would recommend escaping your study space and treating yourself with something nice (food, a fun movie etc.)!


Whether you have one exam, four, or are undertaking an exam under the watchful eye of ProctorU, the exam stress is inevitable but there are coping strategies and your powerful ability to mitigate any undesirable emotions.

Just remember the stress and negative emotions you may be feeling is only temporary. The exam season will come to an end, and you will have an exciting break to look forward to. Make sure to give yourself time off and fill it with fun adventures, sleep, good food and wholesome memories before entering the new semester!


Tagged in What messes with your head, Study matters, Exams, stress