What to Do After an Exam: Manage Post-Exam Stress and Anxiety, Sell Textbooks and Plan your Future

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Student Lifehacks
managing stress and anxiety after the exam

The event that you have been preparing for all that time, pegging away at textbooks and prep materials, is over. You have taken most of the exams and submitted the final papers. Although it seems that the worst days are over, the post-exam stress and anxiety might hit you hard. While you are now anxiously waiting for the results, you are often under higher pressure than before an exam took place.

At least then, you knew what to do and how to perform better… And now? Here are some tips on how to alleviate post-exam stress and anxiety, how to arrange your study materials, whether you should keep, recycle or sell used textbooks, and how to make sense of your future plans.

1. Manage Post-Exam Stress

Our post-exam stress can take various forms: the fear of failure, the worry of not performing up to someone’s expectations, intense social pressure, constant comparison with your peers, and the fear of an uncertain future. In any case, being worried about something that matters is normal—you should acknowledge your stress and emotions. Some of these tips might help you alleviate anxiety, reframe your thinking about finals, or just relax after an exam. If the frustration and stress are too hard on you, don’t hesitate to seek professional psychological help on campus or elsewhere.

a man suffering from post-exam stress and burnout
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Don’t think about the mistakes you might have made and don’t cross-check with your mates (like, never). This unnecessary rumination only makes you more anxious.

Set your mind off the exam. If some thoughts related to the examination continuously bother you, write them down on paper. It can be about possible mistakes that don’t let you sleep, for example. Alternatively, you have probably noticed that some prep strategies worked better than others or that textbooks you’ve used have proven to be useful. After you write these observations, put them away for a while. You can return to these notes after the stress is gone, the results are there, and you are ready to cold-heartedly analyze your performance and strategies.

Write down several scenarios, including the worst one. What happens if you’ve passed the exam, and what happens if you haven’t? You will find out that the latter option is not as dramatic as you thought. Although bad results feel like a failure, you will learn to approach them rationally and with a growth mindset. This exercise will also make you realize that your closest friends and relatives respect you, regardless of your exam performance. They will support you regardless of the results. Embrace that everyone can make mistakes and has a chance to do better next time; it’s a natural process of deep learning.

Manage stress from a long-term perspective. For the first few days, you should sleep your worries away. I bet that the last few weeks were deprived of a solid sleep routine. At the same time, allow yourself to do absolutely nothing for a while. Unless you have other exams or paper submissions on the horizon, you can dive into binge-watching series, getting your favorite food, or reading for fun. When this recreation period is over, try to maintain a healthy routine: stay physically active, practice meditation, eat healthily, and keep sleeping hygiene. 

maintaining good sleeping hygiene helps minimizing post-exam stress
Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

Although this advice is as ubiquitous as it is self-evident, we won’t stop emphasizing how important good habits are. Here you can learn about making habits that last. Don’t forget to make time for yourself and never give up socializing, even if these are zoom meetings and group chat messages. To protect yourself from the new batch of stress the coming academic year brings, learn some tips from this article.

2. Sell Used Textbooks and Arrange Your Study Materials

I bet that right now, your table and working area are a mess—notebooks and slips of papers all over, several used textbooks under your desk, and exam prep books already collecting dust on your shelves. The best you can do while waiting for your results is to tidy them up!

tidy up your desk and college  textbooks
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Arranging these materials and exam prep books might be an excellent way to keep yourself busy and less stressed. When you order your notes and sell textbooks, your mind starts realizing that the exam is over. Make this post-exam decluttering a ritual.

First, arrange your exam prep notes. If they still have sentimental value for you, you can use them again for taking that exam one more time or in your next year’s classes, so leave them for now. However, arrange them neatly in binders according to the topics covered, bring all the handouts together, and put on tags. If you use digital noting systems, they require an order, too. Arrange them in folders on your laptop or use some software like Evernote. And don’t forget to clean your phone gallery—it is probably full of exam-related photos. 

Then, you should deal with your exam prep books. Face it—the tests are over. If you’ve taken board exams, wait till you know your grade. If you don’t need to sit them again, sell used exam prep books. You will earn some cash for the summer holidays, and it is also essential to allow others to study from these textbooks. 

sell textbooks and study prep materials after the exam
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

After a busy academic year, you should also review your college books. Set aside those you need to return to the library or to a rental platform. As for other textbooks, be honest with yourself—will you ever get back to this subject? Will you actually open this textbook and not google relevant materials? If you are not committed to enhancing your knowledge in communication theory or any other topic this summer, then it’s better to sell textbooks. Again, it brings you some cash and makes the study process reciprocal and more affordable for other college students. If you don’t know yet, BooksRun provides valuable buybacks for used textbooks and free shipping labels!

If you need more guidance in tidying up, in this article, we walk you step by step through decluttering for college students. Just give it a try—cleaning is satisfying, and it helps your mind reset.

3. Evaluate Your Performance and Start Making Plans 

Although May is not the time for making new year’s resolutions, it is a period reasonable enough to set up your plans and align your actions with them. 

If you feel brave enough, try to review your exam performance. Not the quality, panicky finding the right answer in your textbooks, but your learning strategies and current knowledge. You can notice, for example, that one topic was more comfortable than the other. And that one of the study strategies you’ve used (for example, mind mapping) was extremely useful. Finally, draw conclusions so that you know which areas you need to revise and which study tricks produce the best results.

After a proper relaxing break, you may start preparing for the coming academic year (or maybe you are taking part in a digital summer school?). Although it sounds bizarre, you will be very grateful for this decision in September. You can start by going through some reading materials according to your curriculum. With BooksRun, one can also buy textbooks that serve as concise introductions to various subjects: getting acquainted with those will make the first weeks at college so much easier.

buy textbooks for the new academic year
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If you have submitted some projects and papers for your finals at college, you should consider turning your essays and projects into something that can make an impact. Maybe you can publish some of your final papers—if not in an undergrad journal (here you can find a list according to the subjects), then on a platform like Medium. If you were involved in some policy projects, you could look for options to implement them locally in your neighborhood or town. Making your knowledge and experiences valuable to others is a foundation for happiness and fulfillment. 

Another tip is to stay busy and get fruitful experiences. If finding a part-time job is troublesome at the moment, you can participate in a volunteer project. It is essential to get work experience and exercise your social and professional skills—it makes you more prepared for whatever the future may bring.

person sitting among textbooks
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You did great, my friend! Whatever the results of these exams and finals are, remember that they do not define who you are. Take some joy in this post-exam time, relax and turn to your long-forgotten hobbies. We hope that you got useful tips on how to keep stress at a minimum, where to sell textbooks and exam prep books, and how to proceed with your plans.

Iliana K