Exam anxiety is the experience of feeling an intense moment of fear or panic before and/or during an exam or assessment.
Feeling Anxious about your exams is normal, especially if you feel under pressure from those around you such as family. You may find it hard to concentrate, to think clearly, to sleep and to eat.
A common part of exam anxiety is worrying about your performance. This can lead to negative thinking and can also to lead to a physical response in the body.
Tips for controlling your exam anxiety
On the lead up to exams
- Create a daily/weekly/monthly to-do list to keep you on track, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete everything! Instead, revise your future lists so they become more manageable.
- Figure out your schedule - different people work best at different times and locations. Find your comfortable revision space and time.
- Don’t forget to slot in regular breaks - This is vital to process and retain information effectively and reduces the risk of burnout. Make sure you also put time aside for non-revision activities.
- Try out the Pomodoro Technique - 25 minutes revising, 5 minutes break and then after 4 “Pomodoros” take a 30-minute break. Research shows that we can only properly concentrate for 30-45 minutes at a time.
- Don’t compare the amount of revision you are doing to your peers. People process information differently so find out what is right for you.
- Don’t sacrifice your sleep! A good night’s sleep refreshes and repairs the brain ready for the next day.
During the exam
- Spend the first few minutes reading through the questions so you can take in all the information given. Remember – you don’t have to answer the questions in the order given.
- Take deep breaths - in for 4 seconds, out for 7. This will reduce stress and help you to concentrate.
- If you can’t concentrate take a few moments to be aware of your senses and surroundings - Feel the chair against your back, listen to the noises outside the room, feel the pen in your hand and the texture of it. Be aware of your posture – if it is tense, soften up and ground your feet. This will help to bring you back to the present rather than get stuck in stressful thoughts.
- Wear comfortable clothing so that you don’t have to be worried about being too hot, cold, or restricted during the exam.
After the exam
- Take some deep breaths to bring you back to the present and shake off that “exam feeling”.
- Remember to congratulate yourself for getting through the work! It may help to reflect on which calming techniques worked best for next time.
- Try to not take part in discussions about the answers. You can’t change your answers, and comparing notes just increases stress. If it helps, and you have another piece of work or exam related to the one you have just taken, write some notes about areas you think you might need to revise more. Be mindful of your friends as well, you may enjoy talking about your answers, but your friends might not!
- Celebrate finishing your work with friends by going for a coffee or doing an activity together. Consider banning the mention of university work and exams during this time so you can just concentrate on relaxing.
- Decide how you want to receive your results. Some people want to be around friends/loved ones. Others want to be by themselves when they open their results. Do what is best for you and don’t feel pressured into doing it in a way that will further stress you out.
How can the University Support you?
We run several workshops on exam and deadline stress – You can learn more here.
If you are struggling with your academic writing workshops are available on how you can improve your academic language.
The University also has a Maths Learning Support Centre, which can give individual help to students from any department who have problems with Maths. You can contact them via email on: email@example.com or via telephone on +44 (0)1509 22 8250
If your exam anxiety is made worse by dyslexia or any other disability, members of our Student Services team can help with any additional exam arrangements you may need. You can contact the team on 01509 222765 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last Updated: 31st August 2022