How to manage final exam stress

Finals season is one of the most stressful times in the school year. It's common for students to feel overwhelmed by the pressures of final exams and end-of-year projects.

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage and reduce the effects of stress during this time. Here are five tips that can help you cross the finish line in a healthy way.

1. Make a study plan.

A study plan can help you feel more in control of your responsibilities and your time. Prioritizing your tasks is a great starting point: consider which of your assignments and exams are most urgent and most important, and plan to get those done first.

Next, set realistic deadlines by estimating how long each task will take and when it's due. Think about how much time you've needed to complete similar tasks in the past and how much available time you'll have each day. When in doubt, overestimate how much time you'll need—it's much less stressful to finish ahead of schedule than to worry about falling behind.

On that note, it's a good idea to check in with yourself once a week and adjust your study plan as needed. It's okay to revise your priorities and deadlines along the way. The goal is not necessarily to set a perfect schedule from day one but to figure out what works for you over the long term so that you can be successful and avoid overwhelming yourself.

Check out more time management tips here.

2. Ask for help.

If you're having trouble getting started, coming up with an effective study plan, or understanding course content, reach out to a teacher, parent, classmate, or tutor for help.

  • A teacher might be able to help you understand where your grades stand, figure out which projects or exams to prioritize, and clarify the course material that's giving you the most trouble.
  • A parent or friend can help you stay on track, celebrate your accomplishments, and make sure you set aside enough time each day to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
  • Studying with a friend can help you understand content in new ways and make finals season more fun.
  • Finally, a tutor can help you set up a study plan and support you in the areas in which you’re struggling the most by reinforcing material you've learned in class and providing feedback on assignments. To get started working with one of our expert tutors, contact us here.

3. Get enough sleep.

Good sleep habits go a long way toward keeping your brain sharp, boosting your academic performance, and helping you manage your emotions. Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep a night—and it's important to be consistent. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact your retention and cognitive function, in addition to worsening your stress levels. It takes at least 5 consecutive days of adequate sleep to make a difference, so the sooner you start, the better off you'll be.

Figure out an evening routine that works for you, and try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. You should find yourself feeling more energized and remembering information more clearly, which will help you get through finals season more smoothly.

4. Take breaks.

Short breaks during your study sessions can help you physically and mentally reset and recharge. In fact, you should build these breaks into your study schedule ahead of time. When studying or completing schoolwork, aim to take a quick break to stretch your legs and rest your eye muscles every 30-40 minutes.

After longer study sessions, take longer breaks to get some exercise, eat a snack, listen to your favorite music, or spend time with a friend. It can be calming and rejuvenating to let your mind focus on something other than finals. And at least once every day, treat yourself by doing something you love.

5. Maintain perspective.

While it's normal to want to work hard and do well, at the end of the day, finals don't define you: you are more than a single number or grade. Academic success isn't everything in life, and you can learn and grow as a person even when you don't quite reach your goals. Celebrate your efforts and accomplishments along the way, no matter how small. Remind yourself of what you're capable of and how far you've already come.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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