Mindset for Study and Exams

by | Oct 3, 2023 | 0 comments

I want you to answer this question. What thoughts and feelings do you experience when you are sitting down to study and preparing for an exam? What mindset or head space do you find yourself in?

For some, you might feel excited, motivated, empowered. If that is the case, well done and I hope you can keep that up.

For others, you might feel dread, fear, anxiety, or boredom. If this sums you up, keep reading. I am going to share with you a coaching tool that you can use to self-coach yourself.

It is called S + R = E, or in other words, Stimulus + Response = Experience

We can create our own reality by how we respond to situations. Let’s look at this in the context of study and exams.


The stimulus is often referred to as the activating event. This stimulus can be external or internal.

An example of an external stimulus is that you have been told that you have an exam this week and the results of this exam will go towards 10% of you overall grade for this course. An example of an internal event might be thinking ahead to a future exam. Even though the exam (or the event) has not yet happened, we can have an experience around the anticipation of it.


Next, lets consider how we respond to the event or stimuli. Sometimes our reactions might be positive and sometimes our reactions might be negative. Our response will depend upon whether we are in the right mindset or head space.

Let’s take the example of being told we have an exam at the end of the week. For some of us, the habitual response might be one of excitement “This is great, I will be able to show my tutor all of my knowledge and I will have some marks in the bag which will towards my final grade”. This student is in the right mindset to succeed. I am not going to lie, it is rare I see students with this type of response.

More often than not, the response is:

  • “Oh no, I am going to fail”
  • “Oh no, I have no study done”
  • “Oh no, I have no time to study for this exam” …….. to name just a few.

Here is the great news! We can choose our response. The responses I have outlined above might be appear to be habitual. In other words, when you hear that an exam is coming up, you always have to same response. That might be the case, but the reality is that you can change your response. By changing your response, you can change your overall experience. Let’s delve in this a little more.


So, you have been told you have an exam at the end of the week and your habitual response is “Oh no, I have no study done”. More often than not, the experience you might have as a result of this response or mindset is one of stress and anxiety as you try to study for the exam.

What would happen if you tried to change your response to the stimulus? Rather than responding by telling yourself “I have no study done”, how about responding to the stimulus by telling yourself “I have worked hard in class all semester long. I will use my study time to build on the existing knowledge I already have”. This is a positive mindset that will set you up for success.

When you consider the two different responses to the same stimulus, do you think your experience of studying for this upcoming exam will be different?

You can change your mindset and change the internal dialogue you have with yourself. In turn you can change the experience you have of the situation.

Another way of looking at this is to start with the experience you want. Taking the same example, you have been told you have an exam at the end of the week and it will go towards 10% of your overall grade for your course. Ask yourself, what result or experience would you like? For example, “I want to get a good grade in this exam”.

By knowing the result you would like, how can you respond accordingly? You can respond by saying “I will study as smart as I can in the time frame I have”.  Ask yourself, is this realistic, reasonable, and achievable? This looks like a very reasonable and realistic response to me.

To conclude, you can change your experience by choosing how you respond to an event or stimulus. You can choose to approach this exam at the end of the week with dread and fear or you can choose to approach the exam with hope, motivation and application of the knowledge you already have.