Taking exams is bound to be stressful because of what’s at stake. You may be feeling a weight of expectation from your family, school, university or workplace to succeed. You may be afraid you’re not good enough, or haven’t worked hard enough. You may be scared of letting yourself down, or that you’ll miss out on a job, university place or career move.

Your pre-exam nerves may seem much worse if you are doing exams for the first time or after a long gap, if English is not your first language or if you have particular learning difficulties. Exams do not exist in isolation; there may well be other events going on in your life that are putting you under pressure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Constant tiredness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Poor appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness

Dealing with exam stress

  • Learn to recognise when you’re stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you’re under will get things into perspective.
  • Avoid comparing your abilities with friends. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you’ve chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
  • Eat right.- Have a proper breakfast. No one can think straight after not eating in the morning.
  • Sleep well and wind down before bed.
  • Exercise. Nothing destresses the mind faster than physical activity.
  • Quit the bad habits. Cigarettes & Alcohol don’t stop stress for long.
  • Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (ie quick, shallow breaths). Sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth .
  • Ultimately, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won’t last forever.