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Managing Exam Anxiety

managing_exam_anxiety.mp3 Listen to the Podcast about Managing Exam Anxiety


It is appropriate to feel some anxiety around exams, as with other important events in life. Nervous tension serves to motivate and focus attention keeping the mind alert. Exam stress becomes a problem if it interferes with the ability to prepare for and perform in exams - too much anxiety can block clear creative thinking, create a negative mind-set and lead to panic.

Dealing with Exam Anxiety

  • In advance of exams: Prepare and plan well ahead for exams; timetable a sustainable revision schedule; review your exam skills and deal with specific deficiencies; aim for a balance of work/rest/play; create an area where you can study effectively; consider working with a study partner who you respect and can work well with; take responsibility for your learning style; get organised with a system of collating notes; ask your department for help (past papers; guidance); ensure you understand the structure of each paper (marks allocated, etc); look after yourself well (exercise; eat healthily; sleep regularly; develop effective relaxation techniques); change your attitude to exams (visualise yourself as a competent examinee who is in charge of revision and who 'embraces exams as an opportunity to shine' - try it!).
  • During exams: eat well (eg breakfast before a morning exam); give yourself plenty of time to arrive; use a calming mantra to keep focussed but relaxed (eg 'I am calm and am thinking clearly') whilst breathing slowly and steadily; read instructions on yhe exam paper carefully; plan timing and answers; check your work; if anxiety levels rise - take a deep breath, tense your muscles and release whilst exhaling - assure yourself you can 'have your anxiety later but now it is time to take the exam'; take a mental break then recommence - don't give up; maintain a positive attitude; visualise yourself as calm and focussed and impressing the examiner with what you write.
  • Between exams: relax and indulge yourself for a short while after an exam then re-focus for the next; review what went well in your overall approach (including how you managed your anxiety) and aim to improve it in your next exam.

Useful resources

At the University of Warwick

For students and staff of the University of Warwick  

Other Resources

for tips on all types of exams    
Available from the University Library:    
Practical guide to organising revision and avoiding last
minute panic
Nick Atkinson
CD which uses relaxation and hypnosis to help calm exam nerves
and reach peak performance
Glenn Harrold
Includes sections on organising revision. Improving
memory and coping with exam nerves
David Acres
MIND Booklet  
EBook Bill Lucas
EBook Katherine M. Ramsland

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