Stress and Exams


Aleena Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief

The first time I ever took exams—real, long tests that covered months of material, worth a significant portion of my grade—I was eleven years old. It brings back memories of being locked in a room for hours on end with binders and papers strewn across my bed, furiously typing out hundreds of Quizlet terms, and scribbling out frantic notes. As I reached high school, that shifted to watching YouTube tutorials into late hours of the night trying to understand meiosis, deliriously FaceTiming friends to go over notes on molecular geometry, and taking melatonin to finally fall asleep, only to dream about George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men. Just under a year ago, I remember collapsing on my bedroom floor with relief, blaring “Mr. Perfectly Fine” to relax after the last final. As these finals and AP exams approach ever closer, my weekends are increasingly being filled with practice tests, dozens of digital files, and various study packets slowly cluttering my desk. If any of this rings a bell, you’ll likely know the dread that comes with exams. However, this year I’m trying to change that. Will there be stress? Undoubtedly. But hopefully it might just be more manageable with a few tweaks to my usual routine.

Normally when studying, I’m curled up on a couch with a blanket. I have my computer resting by my side along with pencil bags and perhaps a few study books. But in this environment, a fifteen minute task often stretches out to two hours. I feel too comfortable, and my focus is awry. My attention frequently diverts to my phone, or I decide that I can spare a few minutes to watch an episode of Netflix, which quickly steals away an hour of my time. Even as I write this article, words never started flowing out until I actually sat up and planted myself at my desk. Though it may be tempting to seat yourself in a cozy space, chances are you may not get as much studying done than if you actually settled into a work environment. Now, you don’t need to go to the library or necessarily have a separate room in your house for work, but a clear workspace might help you focus better than merely sitting on your bed.

That being said, you don’t need to be parked at a desk for hours on end. Oftentimes when studying, I’ll sit in the same position for hours on end until my legs fall asleep and my eyes ache from staring at a screen. To combat this, it can be helpful to just walk away for a couple minutes. Sometimes I’ll get a snack, flip through a cookbook, or just close my computer and rest. Coming from someone who has tried many times to study for hours at a time—it won’t work. Chances are, you’ll either stop absorbing information, or you’ll lose focus and switch activities to something unproductive. Taking a small break every once in a while will help you.

More so than small breaks, you should also make sure to set aside time for your own interests. Though it shouldn’t interrupt your studying, having time for hobbies might just keep you sane during finals week. For example, over the past few years, I’ve learned how to macrame. Though sometimes I go for months without doing it, it’s always relaxing to pull out my wall-hanging-in-progress and do knots by the lamplight. Listening to music before bed, reading a chapter of a book, or any other relaxing activity or hobby can help you relieve stress.

And of course, who could forget about complaining with friends? I distinctly recall last year, the night before the AP Statistics midterm, everyone on the tenth grade group chat was riled up as dozens of files were accidentally uploaded to Canvas. Did we forget a topic to review? Are we going to have this many pages of problems on the test? The upload was an accident, but to be frank, the chaos reminded me that I wasn’t alone in the hectic time of exam week: we were all in the same boat. Even if group studying isn’t your thing, it can be nice to chat or vent with friends about the workload.


When it comes to exams, it’s inevitable that students will become stressed. Will there be fits of tears in the bathroom? Possibly. When mid-July comes along, will I wake up early in the morning to check the College Board for my AP results? Of course. But I also find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in this panic, and that there are some ways to lift the burden off my shoulders.