Exam season is upon us once more, complete with all of the strains and pressures synonymous with this stressful time. Students roll onto campus bleary eyed from late night cramming, keeping fingers tightly crossed that their revision notes correspond with the questions they will encounter on the exam papers.
As with everything in life, preparation is key and with a bit of luck those extra hours spent studying will pay off with better than expected exam results. For some students, however, no matter how many hours they spend hitting the books they still find exam conditions tough. This is no surprise as exams are possibly one of life’s most stressful experiences, not least when future career plans are resting on them.
The secret ingredient to exam success
Thankfully, there is more to exam success than revising. There are certain additional factors that will help ensure that you are in the best possible position to achieve great results, and these extra measures don’t involve a moment’s studying.
One of the best ways to make sure that you are well prepared for your studies is to ensure that you are properly fuelled. It’s not rocket science to learn that the body needs energy to function effectively – especially in high-pressured situations – so eating a nutritious, energy boosting meal prior to an exam is going to put you in the best possible position for success.
Full stomach = full marks
This may seem like really basic advice, but it is surprising just how many students expect to be able to work effectively on an empty stomach. This was revealed in a recent survey, in which students were asked what they normally ate before a lecture. Over a quarter of students admitted that they ate nothing prior to their studies, followed by 23.2% who said they would usually eat cereal, a further 18.4% opted for a sandwich and 12.5% chose toast.
Obviously eating something is clearly better than eating nothing, however the food choices that the students cited were of particularly low nutritional value – especially if the cereal was of the high-sugar variety and the bread used for sandwiches and toast was white as opposed to whole grain. Ironically, the food choice that received the least amount of votes (1.8%) was porridge, a food renowned for improving brain-power and providing slow-releasing energy.
The importance of eating well prior to studies was highlighted further in a second survey, this time asking students what they found the most difficult about their lectures. A staggering 72.4% of students said that they found maintaining concentration to be the hardest part of their studies, a factor that could easily be addressed by eating the right food beforehand.
Why are student diets so poor?
To find out a bit more about the eating habits of students, especially during the exam season we carried out a survey of our own. Here’s what we discovered:
Unfortunately, our results were equally worrying, highlighting that students simply aren’t realising how their diets could be affecting their exam results. Lack of awareness is clearly a large part of the problem, especially as only 13.6% of our respondents considered themselves to have a poor diet, despite admitting to falling into bad habits during the exam season.
- Almost two thirds say that cost prevents them from eating healthily.
- 45.5% admit to comfort eating junk food when they are under pressure.
- Over two fifths of students skip meals during exam season.
- Lack of time causes over half of students to opt for unhealthy options.
The answer is right there on your plate
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming or expensive to include some nutrient-rich food choices into your daily menu. Many every-day foods contain ‘super’ ingredients that can have a positive effect on brain-power, here are some of our favourites:
Even if you aren’t a whiz in the kitchen, it is easy to implement some of these brain-boosting ingredients into simple meals. Eggs can be boiled, poached, fried or scrambled to make quick, tasty and nutritious meals, leafy greens are the perfect accompaniment to most meals – and have the added bonus of being cheap and readily available – and blueberries and walnuts make for the perfect pick me up as they can be simply eaten on the go.
With so much resting on this crucial season, it is imperative that diet is taken seriously. Including the above mentioned power foods into your diet may not guarantee you the top grades, but they will certainly help ensure that you are as well equipped as possible to aim for them.