‘Tis the season: coping with January exams

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la…LIE.

For thousands of students, me included this year, the festive period can bring with it the looming spectre of January exams rather than peace and merriment. I thought this year  (my fourth and final one in further education) was a good opportunity to write up some tips and tricks on how to make sure you can enjoy this time of the season while still keeping on top of revision – as I know it can be a battle. To make this post as helpful as possible, I asked a few friends how they cope with January exams, and I’ve put together a list of some the most useful strategies to ensure you  can enjoy the festivities, but also can face those exams with confidence.


If you’re really struggling – then I’ve written a post on student wellbeing with the CEO of LawCare, have a very comprehensive article on dealing with exam and revision stress and have an ever-growing list of great resources for supporting mental health.

Schedule, schedule, schedule:

Yes, it might sound yawn-inducing, but scheduling came top of both my list and was the most popular suggestion from friends. Regular readers among you will know this is something I advocate during exam periods, and this hasn’t changed. I write about it here in slightly more detail.

  • Actively schedule recreational time
  • Treat your studying like a 9-5 job and then take the rest of the time off
  • Schedule your study time during the hours of the day you will be sitting exams
  • Make a spreadsheet of the topics you need to cover to break things into manageable chunks and ensure you have covered the essentials
  • Incorporate rest days and pleasurable activities/events into your spreadsheet so that you can enjoy the time of year and have some fun
  • Read this post on preventing procrastination too..!


Lots of people said they make sure they get some gym or exercise in to maintain balance and take some time for themselves. In that vein, today, after a long and lamentable six month gap post-yoga retreat I’m starting yoga classes again at a local studio, having enjoyed at-home sessions recently using YouTube (a great and free option); this time I’m giving hot yoga a go – help!

I find exercise in many forms the perfect way to detox, de-stress and release all those feel-good chemicals while taking time away from exam life. Just getting up and making a cup of tea, or going for a short stroll can break up the endless hours of sitting at a desk and is so beneficial for both mind and body.


One top tip was to make sure to review past papers and then come up with a list of topics most likely to come up in the exam. These topics can then be fed into a schedule, so that you feel more in control and can see at-a-glance your progress. This way you can easily factor in breaks and still feel on top of your work.

Enjoy yourself:

Easier said than done, but the overwhelming responses from friends was that studying every night ’til 2am is detrimental and to make sure not to stop yourself enjoying this time of year.

Take some time off over Christmas and make sure you don’t miss out on the fun. Mulled wine came highly recommended, as did a number of other festive activities…

Most of all, it’s important to be able to ‘park’ your work and be present (no pun intended) in the moment with friends and/or family if you have the opportunity. It can be difficult not to feel like you ‘must’ or ‘should’ be studying all the time. But burning yourself out and forcing yourself to work 24/7 could end up negatively impacting your performance, rather than the opposite.

Give yourself permission to have some time out. It’ll pay dividends when you hit the books again and are more refreshed and energised than if you’d powered through.

Treat yo’self:

One friend who had Christmas perforated by exams most years of her further education recommended a reward system. “Finished revising a topic? Have a glass of wine. Another topic? Watch a movie.” Simple, yet effective. She said it worked for her, and most importantly of all she didn’t miss out on the Christmas fun.

Maintain balance:

Remember that throughout your January exams – even after the New Year celebrations, it’s important to still maintain a balance. Feed and refuel yourself with the good things (food, sleep, leisure time, exercise). One top tip was, as above, to treat your studies as a job that is more 9am to 5pm than 8am to 2am. Take a few hours off every night and factor in social activities and down-time, even during your exams.

Chip away at the revision slowly but surely and track your progress so that you aren’t just getting a warm glow from the meat-sweats and fires, but also of pride in yourself.

when-youre-ready-for-christmas-but-still-have-to-take-16412285I hope this short post of simple tips and tricks help you during the next few weeks and enable you to both structure your time to succeed in your exams but also to enjoy some rest and relaxation. Happy holidays! (Make sure you do actually take one…)

(Don’t be shy…click ‘Leave a comment’, share this post if you like it; email, tweet and generally pester me if you want to hear more/share your stories/say hi)

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