“10 Tips to Manage Exam Anxiety”

Emily

7 Plus, 8 Plus, 11 Plus, 13 Plus, Other School Entrance, English & History

November 22nd, 2021

“10 Tips to Manage Exam Anxiety”

Exam time is a stressful time for everyone. For some though, examinations can trigger serious forms of anxiety that can prevent students from achieving their potential. In this blog, Emily, a qualified teacher and SEN tutor, outlines ten top tips to help manage exam induced anxiety.


What is Exam Anxiety?

While it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before a test, some students find exam anxiety debilitating. Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread can combine with physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, headache, or nausea. Whether it’s the 11+, GCSE, A-level or even your driving test, exam anxiety has the power to derail weeks and months of hard work.

The aim of this article is to help reduce exam anxiety; not eliminate it. Anxiety is a completely normal part of life and we can turn this negative anxiety into positive anxiety to help us perform at our best.

Here are our top 10 tips to manage exam anxiety:

1) Prep early and do the work

As a GCSE and A-level Tutor I can strongly advise that you have two years for a reason. Use both of these years as much as you can. Putting the work in consistently is much better than a last six-month cram. This will help develop your skills as well as manage your anxiety. But you can only realistically manage that if you …

2) Look after yourself

If you look after yourself – eat right and exercise – your body will respond more positively. Try to read yourself and find out what works for you. Do you get stressed easily? If so, try to practise yoga or meditation. Do you have too much energy? The try weights or swimming to burn off that excess adrenaline. Or get an even balance. With such busy lives, it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves and it should be our top priority! With all that exercise, it’s clear we will need plenty of…

3) Sleep

It’s no surprise that we often don’t get the right amount of sleep. It’s said we need a minimum of eight hours sleep a night – teenagers and children much more. And although staying up late to study before an exam is not uncommon, that would be a mistake. Your body needs rest so that you can focus and think clearly. Try to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night of the week of your exam and especially the night before your exam. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of energy drinks, which can be high in caffeine and low in…

4) Nutrition

On the day of your exam, don’t skimp on the quantity or quality of your breakfast. Cereal won’t cut it. You need healthy calories for your brain to function and to process information. Make sure to include a high protein breakfast for long-lasting energy, healthy fats for cognitive function and complex carbs for a natural energy release. If your exam is in the afternoon, follow the same nutritional value. It can be hard to eat before an exam, but it is honestly the best thing for your body. Make sure you leave enough time for your gourmet breakfast so you can…

5) Get to the exam on time

Being late to the exam only makes your anxiety worse. It will make make you anxious about your lateness, on top of being worried about the exam! Instead, be mindful of the time and get there early to settle in and avoid a last minute rush. Become acquainted with your surroundings so that you feel more comfortable. This is especially true if it is a new location rather than your regular classroom. Now you are in the exam hall, you want to make sure you have…

6) Come prepared

Have all the materials you will need to take the test. Nothing can aggravate your anxiety like not having a backup pen or pencil, scrap paper, or whatever. If you are unsure what materials you will need, check with your instructor. If in doubt, take whatever you think you might need. You don’t have to use everything you take, but if you didn’t take it, you don’t have a choice. Crucially, you will need to…

7) Remember to breathe

During the test, remember to breathe regularly and deeply. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, try mindful, deep breathing—breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and then holding the exhale, too. Taking 5 slow, deep, controlled breaths will help you calm down and refocus back on your work. These controlled breaths will help to lower racing heartbeats and stress related high blood pressure. While taking a minute to breathe might seem like wasting valuable time, the benefit gained from being more composed will easily outweigh the time lost. A clear mind will allow you to…

8) Think positively

“Think happy thoughts?” It applies to exams too. Keep a positive mindset and think of a reassuring word or phrase you can say to yourself. Top athletes “visualise success”, as in they build a mental picture of winning their competition. Sports scientists have data that suggests this actually improves performance. Visualise your performance in the exam as a successful one. Keep writing and…

9) Don’t waste time

It’s all too easy to get stuck on one question and run up against a wall. If the answer doesn’t come quickly, skip the question for now. However, make sure you come back to it later. Sometimes we just need to shift our attention to find the correct answer. Also, if you work through the questions you can answer first, you know how much time you have to spend on the more challenging ones. You’re nearly there and the exam is coming to the end. Make sure you…

10) Double-check your work

Take a few minutes before you hand in the test to check your work. Did you answer the questions satisfactorily? Consider whether you want to change anything. Just don’t get too hyper-focused with whether or not to change a particular answer. If you find yourself on the fence, go with your gut.

Conclusion

While it is unpleasant, exam anxiety doesn’t have to override your brain when taking an exam. With thoughtful preparation and by practising coping skills, you can stay focused. Just remember that when it’s all over avoid second-guessing yourself and try to move forward. Having something nice planned for after the exam, like a trip to the cinema with friends, can give you something else to look forward to.

Further Reading

We hope you found these 10 tips helpful! Here is some further reading you may be interested in:

NHS Guide on Exam Stress in Children

An interesting guide for schools on how to lower exam stress

Young Minds Guide on Exam Stress


You may find the following blog post useful:

9 Ways to Help Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students


More about Emily

Emily qualified as a teacher in English in 2014, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

Related subjects

SEN

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