Managing exam stress

Everyone gets nervous; it's a normal part of exams. While it's not so easy to stop feeling nervous, you can use relaxation techniques to keep your nerves under control and focus on what you want to achieve.

Here are some tips and techniques you can try if you feel stressed before and during exams.

Before your exams

  • Being prepared and doing the work will always help you feel more confident about sitting your exams, so do as much revision as you can.
  • Celebrate your successes in revision tasks and know when you do well.
  • Meditation and exercise are great ways to help clear your mind, leaving you feeling refreshed and energised. Plan something for first thing in the morning – if you start your day well, you are more likely to stay calm.
  • Use deep breathing to relax your body and mind.
  • Eat the right foods and drink lots of water – for example, too much coffee and sugar can make you feel more anxious as they are stimulants.
  • Use positive language with yourself and visualise your exams going smoothly.
  • If possible, avoid classmates who are highly stressed or who want to talk about the exams.
  • Practise your relaxation techniques so they are natural to you by exam day.
  • Plan your exam day so you feel in control; allow for travel and proper meals.

During your exams

  • Breathe – take some deep breaths to relax your body and mind. This will really help if you freeze up or are struggling to get started.
  • Focus on your paper. Block out the exam room and other students.
  • Read the entire question paper, answering the questions you feel most comfortable with. By answering these first, you will feel more confident and settle into the rest of the exam.
  • Stuck with a question? Leave it. Work on the next one and then come back to it.
  • Remember, it's not a race. You've been allocated a set amount of time – use it and make sure you have done as much as you can.
  • Keep a good attitude and use positive language with yourself; your nerves will pass and you're not alone.

You can also search for advice on the internet if you need more ideas to find what works for you during exam time.

After your exams

Sometimes exam stress doesn't just disappear once you have finished your exams, as you might be worried about your results. There are post-results options available to you if you don't get the results you need. But until then, take time to celebrate completing your exams and your achievements so far.

Here we have addressed some common questions and concerns from students after exams:

Additional support

If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed or anxious at any time before or after your exams, talk to your school counsellor, teachers or parents. Remember, they have taken exams before and know what you are going through so they will be able to help you.

Alternatively, you might feel more comfortable talking to someone who doesn't know you. ChildLine and other charities can provide confidential support 24/7 from experts who can help with concerns about school, exams and anything else that could be causing you stress. You can find a list of these support services on our student support page for managing stress when waiting for results.