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Coursework and exams

Coursework and exams can be stressful. If you feel stressed, you might find that your arthritis flares up.

Research is being carried out to try to find out whether stress can actually cause flare-ups, but what's for certain is that being anxious and in pain won't be a nice combination. Any steps you can take to avoid stress would help.

If you feel you're getting stressed or anxious when you're doing coursework or revision, try:

  • taking breaks
  • talking to friends and family about how you're feeling
  • taking some long, slow, deep breaths
  • continuing to do things you enjoy on days you're studying – such as going for a walk, swimming or reading
  • listening to your favourite music.

The information below will help to reduce stress around coursework and exams.

Coursework and revision

Be organised

Being organised and working hard early on is a good way to avoid becoming stressed just before an exam or a coursework deadline.

Keep on top of coursework and revision by storing notes, deadlines and exam dates somewhere safe and reliable, such as a laptop, tablet or mobile. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to complete assignments and keep track of how much revision you’ve done for each subject with a diary to see which subjects you might need to do more work on.

If you become unwell and you’re worried that it might affect a deadline, talk to your school, college or university as soon as you can. A note from your doctor might help. You might be able to have an extension to coursework deadlines.

Try short sessions

Everyone has slightly different revision techniques. Shorter, good-quality revision sessions are better than longer sessions where you aren’t taking anything in, so you might find that revising in half-hour bursts is better than cramming for hours.

Carrie, 22, who has rheumatoid arthritis, said: “I had to start my revision earlier than most people because I couldn't cram like most people could. When I was in pain, my concentration was the first thing to go.

"You can't be expected to revise for such long periods as your classmates can – some of my classmates could do six-hour stints. I'd have to revise in half hour to one hour stints and then take a break."

Get moving

It's not good to sit in the same position for a long time. Standing up and doing some stretches or walking around the house every half an hour or an hour can help to keep your joints moving and prevent them becoming stiff and painful.

Exercise is a great stress-buster and it’s also a very important part of managing your condition. Taking a bit of time out for a swim, walk, jog, cycle or Pilates class would be time well spent.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks from your studying. Do something pleasant and enjoyable that can help you relax in between sessions, such as going for a walk, swimming, talking to a friend/relative, listening to music or watching TV.

If you need to rest during a session, take a break. You won’t be able to write or learn anything if you’re too tired. When you wake up, or are rested, you’ll be able to revise and learn better.

Think about your medication

Think about the effect that your medication will have on you and when you’ll be in the best frame of mind and have the most energy to work. Factor this in to your timetable.


If you think your condition might affect your performance in an exam, tell your school, college or university as soon as possible. They might be able to make adjustments to the exam condition to help.

If you’re unable to write a lot in one sitting because of pain in your hands, or elsewhere, you might be entitled to sit an exam in a room on your own and have a scribe. This is someone who is trained to write down what you say so that you don’t have to write. A teacher will also be in the room to invigilate the exam.

You may be given slightly longer for the exam and be allowed to take comfort breaks if sitting for a long exam makes you stiff. Your doctor can write to the school to request this for you.

Exams can be nerve wracking and you'll want to do as well as you can. All you can do is your best. But remember that even if you don't get the results you were hoping for, there will still be plenty of exciting options.

Remember that all your classmates will be worried too and that you’re all in the same boat.


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