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Managing Exam Anxiety

It is natural to feel nervous before an exam. In fact a moderate amount of anxiety probably aids performance as it produces a rush of adrenaline which can help with focus and concentration. However, too much anxiety can have the opposite effect and lead to panic, inability to concentrate and potentially poor exam performance.

Exam nerves may seem much worse if you are doing exams for the first time or after a long gap. Equally, if English is not your first language or you have a specific learning disability or mental health problem, exams can seem particularly daunting. Furthermore, exams do not happen in isolation and there may be other things in your life that are causing you stress. We are all individuals and have different stress thresholds, and personality traits and past experiences can all contribute to our ability to cope with stress and pressure. However, there are things that everybody can do to help manage anxiety and optimise exam performance.

Top tips to beat exam anxiety

  • Be mindful.  Allow your exams/revision in to your mind ONLY when planning your revision, or when actually revising.  The rest of the time, absorb yourself 100% in whatever else you are doing - and don't forget relaxation time!

  • Anxiety is contagious!  Keep tactfully away from others who may increase your exam anxiety.

  • Keep a record of how much time you spend "working on/planning for" exams, and how much time you spend just worrying about them.  Which is the greater time?  Revision is good.  Revision is action and gets results, but don't let exams invade your headspace.  The only result here is anxiety.

Student Support will be running 3 one-off Mindfulness for exams workshops which can teach you practical strategies to manage your anxiety.

Guidance and Advice

Further Help

If you have tried the suggested techniques and still feel very anxious or stressed it is worth talking to someone about how you feel and seeking some extra help.

Come and talk to an adviser in Student Support during opening hours.

For out of hours support during term-time you can visit Nightline located at the back of the Keynes Tower.

Useful external links and suggested reading

The Calm Zone

Mindfulness for Students

NoMorePanic  - advice on dealing with anxiety, panic and related problems

Students against depression

BBC Good Food - eating for exams

For further resources, refer to the Wellbeing Directory

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