Exam Anxiety: What it is and Tips to Overcome it

Have you ever felt nervous about something everyone tells you not to worry about?   It can range from a butterfly in your tummy feeling to absolute panic. A few butterflies here and there can be helpful. They sharpen your attack mode and set the stage for dealing with whatever makes you feel nervous. On the other end of the scale, natural anxiety for an event like exams is more intense and can affect test results.

Exam anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. In this situation, the stress can be so great it affects the way the student responds to the exam. The anxiety has a negative effect on their ability to show how they can react in the test environment. The fear they feel in the exam room makes concentration difficult, and there is an inability to recall the very information the student has studied. Physical, mental, and behavioural symptoms can be experienced.  Memory loss, sweating, shaking, a dry mouth, and excessive heartbeat are all forms of exam anxiety.

How can this form of anxiety be kept under control?

Here are 10 suggestions you may discuss in the exam environment and see what works for your nervous student.

1. Expectations

Help the anxious child see that perfection is not the key to exam success. Making a few mistakes in an exam situation is helpful to the teacher and the student. Exams are designed to help pinpoint areas in need of coaching and remediation. Students who understand the reasoning behind the test situation are less likely to panic and feel anxious.

2. Be Prepared

Start to study early enough to acquire relative knowledge and understanding. When you are prepared, you feel more confident in the tested subject. Practice answering oral questions about the topic before writing the actual exam.

3. Get enough sleep

Make sure the night before the test is filled with a good night's sleep. Don't fall into the trap of cramming work the night before. Healthy sleep patterns help with being able to focus the next day.

get enough sleep - exam anxiety

4. Say no to negative thoughts

Negativity can undermine everything you have strived for and make you feel anxious and not good enough to write an exam. Practise telling yourself that you can do this and you will manage.

5. Learn how to take deep breaths

Breathing deeply through your nose and out through your mouth will help you calm down. In addition, learning relaxation and calming methods via some short meditation is a helpful skill.

learn how to take deep breaths - exam anxiety

6. Read the questions carefully

Take time initially to read each question before diving into the first one. Pace yourself and plan your approach to your test. It is worth reading the paper and choosing the questions you feel most confident about answering first. You can always return to any question you missed but answer the ones you know well first.

7. Think about taking some study skills classes

These classes help with study techniques and strategies to overcome feelings of anxiousness towards a test situation. Having a plan of attack and knowing how you will handle the situation builds your confidence.

8. Look after your health

It is essential to keep healthy with some exercise and a healthy diet. Eat the right things to help your body have the fuel to cope with an exam situation. Treat your body with respect at exam time. A sound body and mind go hand in hand.

9. Check learning disabilities

If you have a learning disability, you are entitled to some assistance. For example, you may be allowed extra time or an assistant. Check with your school and find out if there is some provision for learning disabled children. Knowing you have some assistance if you need it is reassuring.

10. Discuss your problem with a counsellor

If anxiety stresses you before you even get into the exam room, perhaps a session with a counsellor will help to lessen the overall stress. You may have a school counsellor at your school, or maybe it would be worthwhile to get the help you need from an outside source.

discuss problem with counsellor - exam anxiety

Take these ten suggestions to heart and discuss them with your child.

Mahatma Gandhi had this to say about facing difficult situations.
"Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment."

The Bottom Line:

It is true to say your results will measure your performance. However, your personal feeling of success will be measured by your knowledge of your effort to get the results you hoped for. Exam anxiety does not affect everyone, but it is a genuine affliction for those who feel this form of trauma. Get help for your child if you can.


Overcoming exam anxiety is supported by using these 10 tips to improve consistent study skills and develop self-confidence.


If you think your child may need help with their exam preparation,

book for a free consultation with our trained & certified tutors today.

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