Textbook Note Taking
Coping with Tests
of this Material
a Study Tip
@ 2011 by
Stress as a College Student*
Good Stress, Bad Stress
Take a look at your napping
cat. That's the picture of a stress-free life and it's probably not the
life you aspire to. Stress is the engine behind your ambition. Most
people perform best with a moderate amount of stress; it's only when
there's too much of it that stress can take a toll on the mind and body.
Symptoms of Excessive Stress
Physical symptoms can
include: headache, stomachache, insomnia, muscle tension, a loss or
increase of appetite, an irregular heartbeat, etc.
can include: feeling overwhelmed or defeated, being irritable,
crying often, having poor concentration and memory, etc.
Additionally, some people
seek an escape valve for excessive stress by turning to alcohol,
drugs, nicotine, food, or other unhealthy or harmful outlets. Be on
the alert and seek help if you recognize these dependencies in
for Reducing Excessive Stress
Identify & Eliminate
Some of the Stressors
You can't eliminate the
biggest stressors in your life (the next exam coming up), but
eliminating some of the smaller stressors can make it much easier to
deal with the big issues. Think hard about the little stressors in your
life and try to eliminate some of them. For example:
your commute is adding to your stress, move closer to campus next
a friend is calling too often, screen his/her calls.
you're feeling guilty because you're not fulfilling your obligations
to family, friends, or organizations, discuss this with the people
involved. You might want to tell friends or organizations that you
will be back in touch during the semester break.
things in perspective by reminding yourself of the reality of your
situation. For example, you might tell yourself, “I just have an exam coming up; there are others who
will be diagnosed with cancer today.”
you received a low grade on an exam, tell yourself that most
students graduate with a low grade or two.
you feel like you have way too much to learn and not enough time,
tell yourself that many students are in a similar situation and you
can't learn everything.
a friend to yourself. Stop saying mean things to yourself that you
would never say to a friend.
laughing and crying can do wonders for taking the edge off your tension.
Some people like to watch a good comedy to de-stress; others prefer a
yourself with funny people and occasionally try to laugh about your
Use Relaxation Techniques
a few minutes of slow, counted breathing. Inhale deeply to the count
of 7 and then exhale to the count of 7. (This sounds simple, but it
works!) Repeat the sequence of counted breathing 2 or 3 times.
or purchase relaxing music or recordings of guided relaxation.
Listen to a recording at bedtime if you have trouble sleeping.
Take Care of Your Body
Your body is more
vulnerable to illness when you're stressed, so it's essential that you
take care of yourself. The last thing you need is to get sick when you
have a lot to do.
the time to exercise regularly.
yourself to a massage.
7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Research indicates that your
ability to concentrate, remember, and deal with stress are all
compromised when you do not get enough sleep. Also, it doesn't make
sense to stay up studying late at night, when concentration and
productivity are at their lowest.
nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
Take the time to have a
little fun each week. This doesn't necessarily mean you should take
a whole weekend off, but it does mean that having fun is a good way
to lower your stress.
Friends, Family, and
Experts to the Rescue
with classmates. Knowing you aren't the only one who is stressed out
or did poorly on an exam can help you gain perspective.
to someone who thinks you're smart and capable. A little
unconditional support can help when you're feeling overwhelmed.
First Aid for Crunch Time
a study schedule, listing specific tasks and how long each will take
studying one topic, don't let yourself think about all the other
things you have to do. Remind yourself that you wrote everything on
your list and you will get to each item in turn. Keep telling
yourself, “One thing at a time. Right now I'm doing this.”
Reclaim Your Confidence
not uncommon for students who once felt smart and capable to begin
to question their abilities when taking a difficult course. Most of
your classmates feel this way.
give your performance on a test the power to define you. An exam
won't tell you whether you're brilliant or not so brilliant. Your
performance mostly depends on your prior education, your preparation
for the exam, and your test-taking strategies.
yourself that admissions staff members admitted you because
they know you have the ability to succeed.
yourself of a time in the past when you handled twice as much work
as you thought you could handle. You can do it again!
you begin to feel truly overwhelmed, seek professional help.
*Used with permission from Academic Center for Excellence at the University of Illinois at Chicago