How to approach your exams like an Olympian

How to approach your exams like an OlympianDid you watch any of the Rio Olympics? I loved marvelling at what people can make the human body do with enough training, dedication and determination. The gymastics and diving were mind-blowing and the endurance of long-distance runners like Mo Farah and the triathletes was simply incredible.

As I watched I heard things from the commentators and athletes themselves about their training regimes, and saw the focus, concentration and determination of the athletes as they prepared for their events. Many of the things the athletes did to prepare can be used by students like you preparing for exams, so I thought it would be fun to pull it all together in today's blog post.

How to approach your exams like an Olympian

Train until it hurts

I heard so many athletes say that they'd been in pain every day in the run up to the Olympics. They pushed their bodies so hard to get maximum performance and it hurt. Really hurt.
Now, I don't think studying should cause you pain. However, you get the best results when you push yourself outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. What do I mean by this?
  • Read books that you find hard to understand. Read them because they're hard so you can improve your own comprehension, use of language and breadth of knowledge.
  • Learn an extra piece of vocabulary or quote every week. Push yourself beyond the task your teacher has set you.
  • Practice exam questions every week from the beginning of the year, not because your teacher told you to but because you want to go over and above to improve your exam performance.
  • Read an article or book at least once per week that goes more in depth on a topic you're currently studying at school
When you continually push yourself outside your comfort zone you'll find that your comfort zone shifts: what you used to find hard becomes easy.

Be mentally strong in the face of adversity

The 58 year old Show Jumping gold medalist, Nick Skelton, broke his neck in two places years ago. Alistair Brownlee, the double Triathlon gold medalist had major surgery this year. Both these athletes overcame major adversity in order to triumph. What adversities have you had to face in your pursuit of academic excellence? Have you had disappointing results in your exams? Have you suffered a bereavement? Have you struggled with anxiety or mental health problems?
If you have encountered any of these problems but you still want to succeed at the highest level you need to find the strength and inner resources to overcome them. The key here is the strength of your desire to succeed.

Have a support team

Every single athlete at the Olympics had a team behind them. Physios, family, sports scientists, nutritionists and coaches all played their part in the athletes' successes. You need your own team to make your success happen. Who should be on your team?
  • Family – the people closest to you should be your emotional support, cheering you on every day. They can also give you practical support like buying books for you, helping you out with chores to free up your time for studies and helping you research things like uni courses.
  • Teachers – these people are so important for teaching you the knowledge and skills you need to excel in your exams
  • Tutors – if you need a bit of extra support with particular subjects
  • An exam coach – someone who's focused on you and helping you through your exams, not thinking about dozens of other students. I provide 1:1 help to people like you who want to excel, ironing out the creases in your exam preparation so you're free to excel. Think of me like Ivan Lendl to Andy Murray, Claudio Ranieri to Leicester City or Sir Clive Woodward to the England Rugby team.

Follow a proven method to make your performance peak

All the Olympic athletes will have followed a training plan put together by expert coaches with a track record of getting results.

If you want to succeed in your exams don't try to make up success as you go along. Instead, follow a blueprint set out by someone who's been there and done that and has the results to prove it (that would be me!). You can get my blueprint for success by getting a copy of my book or completing one of my coaching programmes.

Choose a training partner who challenges you

The Brownlee brothers who won silver and gold medals for the triathlon in Rio and bronze and gold in London are training partners. They talked about how they pushed each other every day in training. Commentators said that they thought neither of the brothers would be so successful if they didn't work together to improve each other's performance.

When you're studying for exams develop a friendly rivalry with other members of your class or year group. I pitted myself in unspoken competition against people throughout my education: at primary school there was a boy in my class but the year above me who was really clever, I always strived to meet his standards; at secondary school there were twin brothers who were really clever and I aspired to get the same grades as them; in A-level English a good friend of mine and I vied for the top spot in the class.

Develop a friendly rivalry with other members of your class to push your grades to the next level Share on X

Who will you choose as your training partner and closest rival?

Passing the baton over to you…

In the comments below I'd love to know:

  1. Which one of these Olympic strategies is already working for you?
  2. Which one do you want to start using right now?
  3. Did you learn anything else from the Olympics that you can apply to your studies right now?
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