Exam anxiety

No matter how prepared I am, I get anxious and sick on the morning of an exam – how can I overcome pre-exam nerves?

It’s difficult to banish nerves altogether – but they can be managed. Setting off for the exam hall on an empty stomach is unwise – but eat the right foods. Fruit and vegetables can help to reduce stress; high-sugar and fast or processed food may do the opposite, while fatty foods can bring on sluggishness. Aim to get quality sleep the night before – light exercise (even a 30-minute walk) before bed will help.

If you’re the type of person who gets wound up by other students worrying aloud about what questions are likely to come up, the answer is simple: avoid them. Getting a good result is more important than mingling with your mates. Allow enough time to get to the exam hall, but not so much that you’ll have to endure everyone else’s agonising predictions before you go in. Take deep breaths to help relax.

Examiners regularly cite poor time management as a major factor contributing to poor marks – so do practise past papers, allocating times to each question, and then stick to your schedule. This will help to create a sense of being in control, alleviating your nerves and allowing you to focus on answering the questions.

Plan ahead for tuning out what might go on around you. Spotting fellow candidates coasting or in despair can be equally dispiriting. If something or someone distracts you, make it your strategy to look down at your own desk and focus on your breathing – this will help you recover your concentration.

Write out the techniques you intend to use to calm your nerves, and tell yourself (try speaking aloud) that they will help. Looking at your list if nerves hit just before you go in to the exam hall will help return you to a state of control.

"Examiners regularly cite poor time management as a major factor contributing to poor marks – so do practise past papers, allocating times to each question, and then stick to your schedule"