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Exam Stress

Have exams coming up? Sometimes the pressure you feel can help keep you focused, other times it can cause stress. Check out these tips to help you cope with stress during exam time.

Cartoon boy procrastinating at work

What does exam stress look like?

Some signs of stress include:

  • Feeling confused

  • Losing touch with friends

  • Feeling moody and low

  • Having trouble making decisions

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Lack of motivation to do anything

  • Trouble sleeping or getting out of bed

  • Tense muscles or headaches

  • Having an upset stomach or feeling sick

  • Fidgeting, nail biting, teeth grinding

Why do people experience exam stress?

Worry they might fail

Don't feel prepared

Want to do really well

Don’t have much time to study

Need to get a certain result

Don’t think they will do well

Find it hard to understand what they’re studying

Feel pressure from family to get good marks

Feel they need to compete with others

Have other things happening in their life

Cartoon laptop desk

Getting ready to study

It’s never too late to set up good study habits. Here are some helpful ideas:

  • Find a quiet place to study without distractions.

  • Set-up your study space. Make sure it’s not too cluttered and has everything you might need.

  • Find out as much as you can about the exam so you can prepare.

  • Ask your teacher if you’re unsure of what will be tested.

  • Learn to make ‘mind maps’ and use them to collect ideas and thoughts, use bright colours to help remember important links.

  • Make a plan of what you want to work on in each study session. Break it down into small tasks and work on one task at a time.

  • Take regular short breaks – use this time to have a drink, get something to eat or play with a pet.

  • Ask for help - If you’re having trouble with something you’re studying ask a teacher, friend, sibling or parent to help.

Tips to help while studying

Try these tips and tricks:

Stick to a routine by eating and sleeping at around the same time each day
Get a good night’s sleep. This gives your brain time to recharge and remember what you’ve learnt.
Give yourself mini rewards once you achieve your study goals – watch a TV show or go for a run
Keep focused on your study – don’t let other stuff like friendship worries distract you.
Avoid junk food - it will bring a sudden burst of energy and then fall away quickly leaving you feeling worn-out.
Eat a well-balanced diet - lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, cereals, grains, nuts and protein are all good for the brain and energy levels.
Allow yourself time to rest – try out some relaxation activities like deep breathing, meditation or listening to music.
Cut back on energy drinks they can increase nerves. Drink lots of water instead!

"Sometimes people keep anxiety a secret because it's hard to talk about, they don't want to be a 'burden' or seem weak. But when it comes to anxiety, 'name to tame' it. Talking about it and having support helps a lot."

Ideas for exam day

Here are some tips to help exam day go smoothly:

  • Work out what you need to take with you on exam day and organise this the night before.

  • Eat a good, light breakfast – this will help with energy and concentration.

  • Go to the toilet before the exam starts.

  • If you feel yourself getting worried before your exam - spend some time focusing on your breathing.

  • When you sit down to do your exam, take time to slow your breathing and relax.

  • Read through the exam paper carefully. Underline key words and instructions.

  • Work out how long you have for each question or section.

  • Aim to have time to re-read answers through and to make any changes.

  • Work on the questions that you find easiest first.

Cartoon girl studying

"Remember passing an exam is only part of the story. There’s always a second chance or another way to reach your goals"

If you’re feeling stressed about exams, you’re not alone.

Talking to someone and finding ways to cope during exam time can help.

If you need help coping with exam stress, give us a call, start a WebChat or email us today.

If you are looking for more digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018
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