How to deal with exam stress

Stress and anxiety can cause you to under-perform in your exams.

Below are some useful tips to help you deal with exam stress.

Take control

Taking ownership and control of your situation is a big part of handling and reducing stress.

Preparation (revision)

You can only do your best in an exam, but to do your very best requires preparation.

This means revision.

Effective revision requires you to start the process early and create an appropriate revision timetable.

If you are well prepared for each exam, you should feel more confident and less stressed.

Preparation won’t stop you feeling nervous, but nerves are perfectly normal.

Preparation (logistics)

Another part of your preparation is the practical issues and logistics around exam day.

Sorting these out will help you to relax and gives you less to worry about.

Set goals

This could be as simple as a tick list of everything that needs to be done.

Clear goals allow you to feel in control as you manage and track your progress.

Seeing your progress will make you to feel more confident about your revision and exam preparation.

More confidence should lead to less stress.

Keep things in perspective

I understand that schools and parents preach about the importance of exams, and yes of course they do matter.

However, they’re still only exams, and you need to keep them in perspective.

Exams may be significant, but they’re not as important as your family and health.

Even if you under-perform, that doesn’t necessarily mean all your ambitions and plans are now dead in the water.

Many successful people have to overcome setbacks in order to achieve their goals.  Your worst case scenario probably isn’t that awful in the big scheme of things.

Take some pressure away by keeping the importance of your exams in perspective.

Eat well

Eating well can help to reduce your stress levels.

  • Do some cooking or baking to take your mind off exams
  • Don’t skip any meals, being hungry doesn’t help your mood
  • Avoid eating or drinking too much sugar, it affects your body’s ability to deal with stress
  • Try and eat healthily

Think positively

Thinking positively can make a big difference to how well you cope with exam stress and anxiety. Stop thinking negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations.

Here are some examples:

  • “I hope I don’t fail this exam” –> “I’m going to do well in this exam”.
  • “This exam is beyond me” –> “I’m well prepared for this exam”.
  • “I’m never going to remember everything” –> “I’m making progress each day with my revision”.

Successful sports people have been using this technique for years because they understand that stress can make them under-perform.

Stay positive and believe in yourself.


Tiredness can increase your stress levels.

Make sure you get plenty of sleep.

Laugh or do something fun

Laughing and having fun reduces stress and helps us to relax.

Make sure you include some time to do this each day as part of revision timetable.

Working to exhaustion is counter productive and will cause you even more stress, so don’t feel guilty about having a bit of fun each day.

Take regular breaks

We’ve spoken a lot on this website about the importance of taking regular breaks.

Having a break gives you the chance to take your mind of studying and do something fun.

Get outdoors or exercise

Many studies claim that spending time outdoors or doing some exercise helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

There is something about greenery and being closer to nature that helps humans to relax.

Give it a try next time you are feeling stressed.

Don’t listen to others

Listening to other people might be causing you additional stress.

The communication might be face to face or through social media.

  • They might be stressed out, and you don’t need this in your life
  • You might start making comparisons between their revision and yours, causing you to doubt your own strategy
  • They might tell you that what you’ve been doing is wrong, or not good enough

Consider taking a break from social media and certainly turn off your phone during study periods.

You should still see your friends, and take advice if you need it, but please be mindful about making comparisons and how any contact with them makes you feel.

Speak to someone

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

Talking can help you to identify and deal with the issues that are causing you stress.

Make use of any support services that are available to you.

Don’t do exam post-mortems

As soon as you finish an exam your focus should shift immediately to the next exam.  Don’t perform an exam post-mortem.

  • It’s too late to change your answers, so why stress about what you wrote
  • It doesn’t matter how well other people did, it makes no difference to you
  • There are better ways to spend your time

Have a relaxing bath or shower

A lazy soak in the tub can work wonders for reducing stress.

Try to relax, forget about exams for a while and think about happy times.

Be adaptable

Avoid stress by taking a mature and adaptive approach to your studies.

Don’t throw your toys out of the pram if you oversleep one morning or fall behind schedule.

Nothing is ever perfect, just adapt and make more progress as soon as you can.

Write down your worries

Many people find it helpful to make a list of all the things that are causing them to worry.

The process alone can be beneficial, but it also gives you the opportunity to rationalise some of your worries and put them into perspective.

How many of them are actually in your control?

Try to stop worrying and stressing about things that you can do nothing about.

Do mock exams at home

Part of your stress might be down to a lack of self belief.

As part of your revision make sure you do some past papers.

Seeing how well you are doing should give you are reason to feel more confident.

Revision Tips +