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Mental Health during Exams

As students prepare to face the academic decathlon called midterms, we wanted to compile our best tips for maintaining one’s mental health during the exam period. 

First, let’s discuss all the different mental health challenges students face during exams. The average high school student will take five cumulative exams this month, each worth 15 to 25% of his or her overall grade. All of these exams are scheduled for a one-week period, back-to-back-to-back. Students have roughly two weeks to prepare for these massive tests because most teachers continue teaching new content. Students have about a million family and social obligations this month. Those combined with the increasing number of hours studying promote poor sleep habits, stress-induced procrastination, and oh so much fatigue. 

Obviously, not every student is going to face everything listed above, but it’s worth noting how common anxiety, burnout, fatigue, and procrastination are in the weeks leading up to exams. Here are our recommendations to win the mental health battle during exams:

Start Early

Time management is critical to mental health during exam preparation because cramming for a time crunch makes everything worse. Cramming for exams hurts a student’s ability to focus, retain information, and think critically. Cramming also leads to unhealthy sleep and eating habits. When most people cram for exams, they tend to pull the infamous all-nighter or get a reduced amount of sleep. Students who start studying earlier will be in a better headspace. They will go into the exam room well-rested and confident to conquer the test. 

Make Time for Yourself

One of the biggest mental health mistakes students make during exam prep is changing too much too fast. Some students barricade themselves in a ‘study bunker’ and attempt to pull-off nine- or ten-hour workdays. Naturally, burnout and procrastination follow because human beings just aren’t built to work this way. 

Successful students shouldn’t abandon the habits that worked for them before exam prep started. Yes, students should dedicate more time to studying in the weeks leading up to exams, but they shouldn’t abandon the hobbies, friend groups, and social activities that helped them get to where they are. Scheduling break time is vital to succeeding during exams. Students should schedule time to step away from the bunker and do something fun. These students will return to their studies fresher and more focused than their counterparts. 

Study in the Right Place

Speaking of bunkers, finding the right place to study can help improve the way students study and process information. Finding the right study space is about minimizing distractions and boosting stamina. Students should aim for a semi-private study space with great lighting. Then, they should stock that room with everything they need to study for the day – pens, pencils, notebooks, flashcards, chargers, etc. Fewer trips to retrieve items reduces potential procrastination. Minimizing distractions allows students to focus on the material instead of tuning out everything around them. 

Eat Healthily

Student should avoid sugary, processed foods when studying. Instead aim for protein and natural sugars. The brain needs two things to function well: water and glucose. Students who stock their study space with health snacks like fruits, nuts, and high-protein snacks will have better focus and stamina. Don’t overlook hydration either. Caffeinated, sugary beverages might give students a short-term boost, but they are often followed by a crash. Instead, stock up on water. 

Ask for Help

A student’s mental health should be the number one priority, especially during exam season. One of the best ways to help your child during exams is to provide accountability and a broader support system. 

Whether it’s encouraging office hour appointments, helping to schedule study group sessions, or finding a one-on-one academic coach for this stressful time period, accountability goes a long way to keeping your child confident and sharp during exams. For more ideas like this, please check out our blog. If your child could benefit from one-on-one academic coaching, please reach out today to learn more about our services.

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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