Dealing with the anxiety of examinations

Here are some very key general points about reducing anxiety and stress in the run up to exams.

  • Never work right through on revision until you fall asleep at night – have a break before going to bed of at least an hour, doing, thinking about, something else. That will allow you to rest more effectively and keep you much fresher for the next day’s work.
  • In your revision plan (see the next section), timetable-in time away from revision – including for some of the usual leisure/sport activities you have: keeping some life balance is essential for making sure you are fit enough to do your absolute best.
  • Pushing yourself too hard might squeeze five per cent more material into your head, but being too tired or stressed on the exam day might reduce by 10 per cent your capacity to turn any of it into an answer!
  • Don’t get caught in a cycle of keeping going and trying to reduce stress through the consumption of more alcohol or more coffee or similar things – alcohol and coffee dehydrate you, make it harder to get to sleep, and make your system more likely to crash.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat properly. There are some good suggestions on this BBC website.
  • If you are not doing regular sport, then at least do some light exercise – don’t just be stuck in your room at a desk.
  • Don’t load extra pressure on yourself by comparing what you are doing with what others are – focus on your own preparation and goals.
  • Remember some days won’t feel as productive as others. If you leave yourself enough time and have a good timetable, a few “bad” days are fine.
  • Always seek assistance if you are having difficulty with sleep, or if you feel your anxiety is really getting too much: the College Nurse is the best place to start, or the College Doctor.

You can talk to any of the people listed here in the Student Handbook who will always be willing to discuss how you are feeling and how they can help. Please do so before any problem you are feeling gets too big.

One very good booklet describing the whole process of what you are feeling, and how to best deal with it is produced by the University of Nottingham.  It is really worthwhile taking 5-10 minutes to read through this, and to pick up the tips that you think might help.

Some helpful relaxation exercises are provided here if you are feeling stressed.

If you feel you are panicking in the exam itself – see the tips for dealing with this in the On Examination Day(s) section.