Slideshow: Top Ways to Tame Exam Stress

  • teen studying with schedule

    Plan for Exams, Don't Cram

    A lot of people joke -- or brag -- about waiting until the last minute to study for a test. Don't buy it. Cramming makes you too stressed-out and tired to think straight. And after a while, stress adds up -- You can't sleep, you gain weight, or you feel depressed.

    Tame your stress with a study schedule. Review one chapter or set of notes at the same time each day, starting 1-2 weeks before the big test.

    You also want to make sure to get a good night's sleep before the test so you can focus on the day of the exam. You'll feel relaxed and well-prepared!

  • girl eating apple while studying

    Take Study Breaks

    When your eyes are on your book, but your brain isn't taking anything in, it's time for a break:

    • Get up and stretch. Taking a break to move can help you refocus.
    • Eat a healthy snack. The junk food and caffeine you may be craving because you are stressed out won’t give you lasting energy.
    • Take a short walk. Getting some fresh air may help your brain refocus!

    Be sure to pick something you can finish in 15-20 minutes. You don't want to get sucked into a movie or a long text session.

  • girls laughing at video on laptop

    Laugh It Up

    It turns out that trading jokes with friends or reading comics may not be a waste of time. Laughing can be a powerful weapon against stress. It improves your mood and relaxes the tension in your body. So if a friend sends a link to a funny video, go ahead and click -- just not during study time.

  • teen girls playing basketball

    Tame Stress With Exercise

    You know exercising every day is good for your body. But did you know it works wonders for the mind? Just 20 minutes of moving can give you quick stress relief that lasts for hours. Almost anything that makes you move works:

    • Put on music and dance.
    • Play basketball with friends.
    • Run, swim, or ride your bike.
    • Take your dog for a walk.


  • teen study group in library

    Study With Friends

    Study buddies can take some of the stress out of getting ready for a test. But choose them carefully. A classmate who is drama-prone or quick to put you down will hurt your focus. 

    You want to choose a friend who is as serious as you about studying, someone with similar habits so you can help each other study. Also, discussing topics may help you remember the material better.

  • teen tutoring another teen in class

    Tutor a Classmate

    Take your mind off your own grades by offering to help a classmate. Focusing on your strong subjects will boost your confidence. Helping others can also make you feel more in control and less stressed.

    If being a tutor is not for you, try volunteering at an animal shelter or a nursing home. The good feelings you get from helping out can make you feel more relaxed about life, including schoolwork.

  • teen excited about good test score

    Think Positive

    If you tell yourself, "I can't do this," you're more likely to fail. Why? Negative thoughts can blow your concentration during a test. Instead, think positive:

    • Remind yourself of past accomplishments.
    • Think about the steps you took to prepare for the test.
    • Trust yourself to choose the right answers.

    Confidence helps you be positive. If you are stumped on one question, move on and don’t let it pull your confidence down for the rest of the test.   

  • teen girl trying on graduation cap

    Think of the Big Picture

    Your future does not depend on any one test. Your high school career is a process with lots of chances to improve. Remember:

    • Bombing one test does not mean you will fail the class.
    • You will have a chance to do better next time.
    • Going back over a test often shows the areas where you need help, and asking for help shows your teacher you care.

    Finally, once you graduate, no one will look back at your score on just one test.

    You still need to try your best but learn how to improve if you bomb one test and look at the big picture.

  • teen visualizing an excellent test score


    When the test hits your desk, you may feel your heart rate speed up or your mind starting to go blank. Take a minute to meditate:

    1. Close your eyes.
    2. Concentrate on your breath going in and out.
    3. Picture yourself doing well on the test.

    Even a quick meditation can help you feel calm and focused.

  • teacher explaining camera to student

    Talk to Your Teacher

    If you feel confused about something you are learning, don't be afraid to talk to your teacher. Some students get nervous about asking questions outside of class. But remember, it's your teacher's job to help. If you keep putting off a meeting, try these steps:

    • Write down your question ahead of time.
    • Set up a time to see your teacher.
    • Show up!


  • boy sleeping in class

    Get Enough Sleep

    Most teens are natural night owls, and stress can make it even harder to sleep. So how do you get the 8 1/2 hours that scientists say you need for brain power? Stick to a regular bedtime and skip daytime coffee, sodas, or energy drinks. Their caffeine can make you worried and scattered. It can also ruin your sleep -- even hours later. A good night's rest gives you calm energy all day long.

    Sleep grades: A-students tend to get more sleep than C-students!

  • teen eating a healthy breakfast

    Eat Breakfast

    Want to finish your tests faster and get more answers right? Eat breakfast. Here's what to put on your plate (or in your bowl):

    • Protein, like an egg, low-fat cheese, or low-fat yogurt.
    • Whole-grain cereal, muffins, waffles, or pancakes.
    • Fruit -- grab a banana, or stir berries into your cereal.

    If you're short on time, pack your breakfast to go.

additional slideshows