Campus Life
Crunch time: tips for surviving exams
by Scott Hokkanen | March 23, 2017

Uh-oh. Here comes exam season…

Don’t worry too much – you’ll get through it alive. There’s a lot that can be done to make sure that your exams go as smoothly as possible.

Here are our best tips for surviving the treacherous exam season:

keep calm and study posters

Get some sleep

You may think that pulling an all-nighter will help you cram more information in your brain before an exam, but that’s not the case. Sleep-deprivation can hurt your chances of performing to your full capacity on a test. Your brain retains, and recalls information more easily when it is rested. You will feel better, and do better if you catch some Z’s the night before.

Bart Simpson falls asleep while studying

Listen to some calming music

Being relaxed and zen can help you mentally prepare for an exam. One of the best ways to relax is to listen to some calming music. Trade in your EDM, Metal or Trap-Music for some classical or acoustic tunes. Zen music can help you stay content and stress-free while hitting the books. My personal favourite studying artists are: City and Colour, Bahamas and Oh Wonder.

man singing with acoustic guitar at a showcase

Prioritize course content

Sitting down and looking at the summary of your course can help you figure out what concepts are more important and need to be prioritized. This doesn’t mean you should ignore certain pieces of content, but it does mean that you can identify areas of focus. Often, having a better understanding of key course concepts can help you apply that knowledge to other parts of the test. Think big.

A photo by Lacie Slezak. Girl frustrated with homework.

Take regular breaks

Break up your long study sessions with short breaks. Take 10 minutes to go for a walk, or watch ONE episode of a show. Don’t let yourself get sucked into a long TV marathon, but if you’ve been studying for hours there’s no harm in taking a break to watch your favourite show. Scheduling your time is very important, so if you plan far enough ahead, you should be able to set aside some time for breaks.

asian man plays basketball at outdoor court

Be the teacher

Nothing helps you understand a concept like being able to teach it to someone else. Find a friend or family member and give them a lesson on the subject your studying. Saying something out loud can help you figure out if you have a strong understanding of it, and will also help you start to formulate answers for the exam ahead of time. Also studying with other classmates can help you pick up certain course content you may have misunderstood or passed over.


Study at a desk in a comfy chair

Studies have shown that even if you plan to do work, you are less likely to be productive when in bed. You drain energy when in bed because your body associates the surface with sleep and rest.

Good luck with your exams!

Having trouble dealing with exam stress? Student LifeLine is a FREE 24/7 resource you can use via your computer, toll-free telephone, or mobile app.

LifeLine’s support includes:

  • Short-term counselling
  • Online resources (instant chat with a consultant, articles, blogs, podcasts, self-assessments, interactive tools and educational materials)
  • Referral to campus and community resources
  • Consultations and research on life’s everyday issues