Managing Exam Anxiety: Tips and Tricks for Students at Discover Learning in Motor City

Managing Exam Anxiety

For many students, exams are more than just a test of knowledge—they are a major source of anxiety. Whether preparing for GCSEs or A Levels, managing exam nerves is crucial for optimal performance. Discover Learning in Motor City offers some tried and tested tips to help students stay calm and confident before, during, and after their exams.

Before the Exam

Change Your Perspective

One of the most important steps in managing exam anxiety is altering the perception of exams. While exams are important, they are not the ultimate measure of one’s worth or future success. Viewing exams as opportunities to showcase knowledge and skills, rather than as traps set to catch mistakes, can significantly reduce stress.
The body’s physical response to stress is heavily influenced by mental state.

Viewing exams with fear triggers physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart and sweaty palms. By shifting perspective and seeing exams as manageable challenges, students can reduce some of this pressure and improve their performance. Remember, if things don’t go as planned, there is always the option to re-sit the exams.

Talk to Someone

Feeling nervous before an exam is completely normal. Talking to someone about these feelings can be incredibly relieving. Whether it’s a parent, friend, or teacher, they can offer support and provide useful advice or reassurance that these feelings are normal and manageable.

Prepare Essentials

Avoid a last-minute scramble by packing the bag the night before the exam. Ensure it includes a transparent pencil case, a transparent water bottle, reading glasses (if needed), and all necessary stationery (black pens, pencils, a ruler, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, etc.). Check with the school about which items are allowed in the exam and perhaps ask a family member or friend to double-check the packed bag.

Start with a Nutritious Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast on exam day is essential. Research shows that students who have breakfast before an exam perform better than those who don’t. opt for breakfasts that include slow-releasing energy sources such as oats, whole-grain bread, muesli, and bananas.

These foods help maintain steady blood sugar levels, keeping students alert throughout the exam. Adding protein sources like milk, yoghurt, or eggs will keep students feeling full longer, sparing them the distraction of a rumbling stomach in a quiet exam hall. Avoid heavy, greasy foods and too much caffeine, which can exacerbate nerves and cause jitteriness.

Music and Movement

Listening to a favorite playlist can help soothe pre-exam nerves. If there is time, light exercise like a brisk walk or some stretching can help dispel nervous energy, boost mood, and sharpen focus.

Arrive Early

Plan to arrive at the exam hall early to avoid any last-minute stress. Use this time to breathe deeply, relax the mind, and perhaps go over notes one last time if it is helpful.

Find Personal Space

If pre-exam chatter with peers is stressful, it’s okay to find a quiet corner to gather thoughts. Finding a quiet space to review notes and collect thoughts can be incredibly helpful, allowing students to center themselves, focus on the material, and enter the exam room with a clear, calm mind.

During the Exam


Never underestimate the power of regulated breathing to control emotions and reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. As students settle into their seats for the exam, taking a few deep breaths can increase oxygen flow to the brain, helping them think more clearly. Practicing mindful breathing by inhaling deeply, holding for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly can reset the body’s stress response and sharpen focus.

Positive Self-Talk

Keeping inner dialogue encouraging and constructive is crucial. If negative thoughts or predictions of failure arise, shifting thoughts to reminders of hard work and past successes can be beneficial. Affirmations such as, “I am prepared” or “I can work through this question step by step” can be helpful.

Be Strategic

The approach to the order of questions during an exam can impact confidence and time efficiency. Consider starting with the questions that feel most confident. This can quickly boost morale and settle any initial nerves. For example, if the exam includes multiple-choice questions, tackling these first can serve as a productive warm-up.

Focus on the Present

Concentrating on one question at a time is important. If feeling overwhelmed by the volume of the paper, redirect focus back to the current question. If a particular question seems too difficult, mark it and move on; it can be revisited later with a fresh perspective.

After the Exam

Avoid Comparisons

Avoid discussing the exam with peers if it tends to increase anxiety. Comparing answers often leads to unnecessary stress and can undermine confidence about performance. In subjects like English, each student’s approach and understanding of the questions can vary significantly, so direct comparisons are rarely accurate or beneficial. Similarly, avoid going on social media right after the exam to steer clear of post-exam discussions and speculations.

Don’t Predict Outcomes

Resist the urge to estimate marks post-exam. Revisiting and dissecting performance is not only a waste of mental energy but can also negatively impact preparation and mindset for future exams. Instead, use this time to decompress, engage in activities that relax, and clear the mind from the stress of the exam.

Prepare for the Next Challenge

Once there has been time to relax and recharge after the exam, it’s crucial to begin preparing for the next one. Exam season can be exhausting, but maintaining momentum is key to avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming.


How do I manage exam anxiety?
The best way to manage exam anxiety is to alter the perspective on exams themselves. View them as opportunities to demonstrate knowledge, rather than as obstacles. Establish a pre-exam routine and use coping strategies such as deep breathing and positive self-talk to stay calm in the exam hall.
How can I prepare the night before an exam?
The night before an exam, prioritize a good night’s sleep and avoid cramming. Instead, organize exam materials, review notes briefly, and then engage in a relaxing activity such as reading a book or listening to calm music. Setting out clothes and packing the exam bag can also minimize morning stress.
Can diet affect exam performance?
Diet can significantly affect exam performance. A nutritious meal before an exam can keep students energized and focused.
How do I calm my nerves before an exam?
Before the exam, listening to a favourite playlist or engaging in light physical activity can clear the mind and boost mood. It can be helpful to find a quiet space to gather thoughts or read over notes one final time, away from the hustle and bustle of stressed students.
What do I do if I panic during an exam?
If panic arises during an exam, deep breathing techniques can help calm nerves. Focusing on taking slow, deep breaths can reset the body’s stress response. If panic persists or affects the ability to continue the exam, it’s important to let an invigilator know. Invigilators are trained to handle such situations and can offer assistance.
Is it normal to feel anxious after an exam?
Yes, it is completely normal to feel stressed or anxious after an exam. To reduce post-exam anxiety, it is best to steer clear of social media or exam-related discussions with peers. Instead, try to switch off by engaging in a relaxing activity.
When immersed in revision and the stress of exams, it can be easy to forget these strategies. Practices like deep breathing may seem ‘silly’ or a waste of time, but they prove their worth precisely in stressful moments. By integrating these strategies into exam preparation, students can effectively manage exam nerves and improve performance. Remember, it’s as much about preparing mentally and emotionally as it is about revision. Good luck!
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