Messy student desk strewn with notes, books and exam papers

I know I haven't posted in over a month, which is particularly bad when trying to start up a new blog but the stress of a-levels recently has become extremely real and my motivation has gone from high to extremely low. I often just sit and stare at my school planner looking at all the work I need to complete with 0% motivation to do it. So i thought I'd write a blog post that may help myself and hopefully others decrease the stress of a levels or other exams people are doing. (**Disclaimer** What is working for me may not help others, and I am no expert on how to reduce the stress school/exams bring). I knew A Levels were going to be a huge step up from GCSES in terms of the required workload, time and effort needed in order to succeed AS, but the jump from AS and A2 I found particularly huge and took a while for me to get my head round.... this may not be the case for everyone but taking A2 Psychology, and Health and Social Care requires a lot of essay writing and coursework which from AS I was used to 12 markers and not expanding on my points to having to write 24 to 30 markers and writing PEEL (Point, Evidence, Explain, Link) paragraphs, which I have found extremely difficult. 

Anyway, recently I've found and been given some useful advice to reduce the stress of A-levels that I am going write about below, i know there are hundreds of websites that probably tell you the same thing, but I feel hearing it from someone going through the same thing makes it easier to read and process and maybe a little less daunting (I'm not sure):

  • It's important to take at least half an hour out of each day to do something to actively de-stress you. For me this involves walking the dog in the evening to the local park and also two days a week I go to dance class. However taking half an hour out of your day could include writing, reading, walking or playing video games etc. It sounds obvious when you think about it, and I have found it a lot easier to sit down and complete revision/homework.  It can be difficult around exam/ coursework deadlines to do this but it really allows you to work so much more efficiently when you have a clear head.
  • Organisation - for me this is something that i find extremely important in order to start working, if my work space/desk isn't tidy then I can't concentrate properly as I'm constantly trying to find something under piles of sheets and folders. I use magazine holders to put any text books and loose sheets in, I have one for each of my subjects and then all my university bits and pieces as i am currently applying to uni. I then have a stationery and revision materials box that has lots of pens, pencils and other stationery as well as revision cards, post-it-notes etc. I also then have a box that holds spare plastic wallets. I then also have a ring binder for each subject which I keep organised by using dividers with titles of each module. Then for my essays I keep a separate folder (already has plastic wallets attached) and write the title of every essay that could come up for example in psychology and then stick them to each plastic wallet then as i write each essay and get them marked i put them into the correct wallet and put the grade and whether it is my first attempt or 5th attempt onto another post-it-note. - However different organisation techniques work for different people. I know I am an organisational freak ;)

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  • Regular breaks, these don't necessarily have to be active but doing something for 5 to 10 minutes every 45 minutes/ 1 hour - I find, helps me to remember information a lot better. 3 hours straight revision doesn't work for me personally. I tend to get something to eat or make myself a drink and check my social media. 
  • Switching off social media - haha this is a lot more difficult than it sounds, putting your phone in a different room to the one you are working in helps as you know you cannot just press the home screen button to check your notifications, something I kept doing which was a massive distraction. As teenagers we tend (apologies if you don't) to spend too much time on social media sites, facebook, twitter - I know that I'm too obsessed with twitter, as i am constantly checking whats new and answering texts and phone calls. Sociability is good - but too much of it, and being on the computer too much, can lead to more stress. I am currently trying to limit myself to the number of times I use my phone up during the day. At school I tend to check my phone during break and lunch times, and at home I use social media in the evenings when I'm not doing work and then try to switch off at 9:30pm but this doesn't usually happen. 
  • Have a social life..... apparently smiling, laughing  is the best medicine for stress. Spending time with friends and family is important and will often make you feel a lot better. - Advice from one of my teachers was to take a day or at least half a day to spend doing something that you enjoy whether this is on your own or with friends, going out for a coffee or going shopping - 'Me time' is a good healer for stress!!!! 
  • Try to see the positive side of the exams - this is what i keep telling myself at the moment that there is life after exams, the stress will eventually disappear and it will be worth it in the end, no matter what the grades. Someone told me back in September to turn all my negative thoughts about exam stress into positives, write them down and read them to yourself. Sounds stupid and makes you feel a bit silly..... but it does actually work. 
  • SLEEP. Getting enough sleep sounds pretty straight forward... so why wouldn't you do it... I find this piece of advice extremely difficult to follow, if i haven't finished a piece of coursework then I'm obviously going to stay up and complete it.... however this isn't necessarily the best idea and will have its disadvantages the next day. I know that my brain doesn't function after 9pm, re-reading what i wrote the next morning I will often realise that the sentences I wrote don't make any sense. 

Finally good luck to everyone taking exams this year!!!!!!

I hope that anybody reading this and taking exams finds it useful, you may have heard it all before, but for me it really is working!!!

Let me know if you have any other advice or tips you use or have used to reduce the stress of exams. 

Thank you for reading, 

Olivia x 


This blogpost was written by Olivia, an A-level student who's hopefully going to be a university student in September. She shares her tips and experiences with organisation, revision, UCAS, recipes for food and drinks and how to balance your time between school work, a social life, and having a job.