How to Cope with Final Exam Stress: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for High School and College Students

Closeup shot of young man and woman discussing on note. Happy and smiling student studying at the library. Multi ethnic group studying on book for the next exam.

Are you a high school student or college student and feeling overwhelmed with upcoming final exams?

If so, you should know that you are not alone in feeling stressed, worried, afraid, and freaked out by this end of school year pressure.

Let’s start off by gaining an understanding about the reasons you may be feeling this way and then go through some Do’s and Don’ts for getting through this time.

In general, young people these days feel more pressure in comparison to previous generation. While advances in technology can be great they can also provide a lot of distractions and misinformation.

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others; however, if you perceive that everyone is having a great time and you are not, you can feel lonely, left out, weird, and disconnected. Obviously, this is not going to make you feel good and can result in you feeling pretty down on yourself.

The kids, teens, and young adults whom I’ve known and worked with often attend high achieving schools and come from high achieving families.  I’m not blaming teachers or parents, although some can watch what messages they convey and do a better job having reasonable expectations.  What I have noticed a great deal is that kids can put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to succeed. This becomes a problem when it doesn’t stop at simply working hard, but when perfectionism goes overboard and you become your own worst critic and judge.

Even during finals, it is important to keep things in balance. That means eat healthy, socialize, exercise, and sleep!

Final exams do not have to be the worst part of your life. Here are some tips to help you keep things in perspective.


  1. Do go to class, pay attention, and do your work all throughout the year.
  2. Do ask questions if a topic or assignment is confusing.
  3. Do communicate with your teacher if you have been sick or have an unusual personal situation going on.
  4. Do take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping well, getting exercise, and taking breaks.
  5. Do remember that these are just tests that measure your knowledge on one day in your life, nothing more nothing less.
  6. Do study using different methods such as reading, highlighting, writing notes, flash cards, audio recordings, practice tests, study groups.
  7. Do make a realistic study schedule where you break down your readings and other tasks into smaller more manageable pieces.


  1. Don’t cram everything in at the last minute.
  2. Don’t stay awake all night studying, drinking coffee or taking other stimulants. You need to sleep!
  3. Don’t think you have to keep your personal struggles to yourself, talk to a teacher or therapist.
  4. Don’t skip meals, change your routine, skip exercising, or isolate yourself.
  5. Don’t think a final exam means more than what it is. Even if someone is telling you that your future depends on this one test, they are wrong. It does not.
  6. Don’t rely on one study method, mix it up and you will figure out what strategies work best for you.
  7. Don’t procrastinate or over study.

Final exams are a stressful life event, mostly because it can sound intimidating and the uncertainty and trigger stress and anxiety. However, as you go through your career as a student your confidence will improve and you will learn that it is only a test. If you are struggling with deeper issues related to anxiety and depression and would like to find out if therapy could be beneficial to you, please click on “Book Online Now” to schedule an initial phone consultation.

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