Coping with Exam Stress

Coping with Exam Stress

Working toward exams can feel overwhelming and create feelings of anxiousness for many students. Coping with exam stress is a common struggle and can often catch us off-guard.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone in how you are feeling.

WARNING: This blog contains potentially sensitive and/or upsetting topics.

Signs of Exam Stress

Here are some signs that you might be feeling stressed:

  • struggling to get to sleep or not sleeping well during the night
  • feeling more tired than usual
  • losing interest in hobbies or activities you usually enjoy
  • mood swings or feeling irritable
  • changes in eating habits or loss of appetite
  • headaches or migraines
  • low confidence or poor self-esteem
  • forgetfulness
  • being unable to concentrate on everyday tasks
  • getting upset easily or feeling more emotional than usual
  • feeling hopeless about the future
Coping with exam stress - these signs may also come as a result of more general mental health difficulties. If you are worried about yourself or someone else, speak to a trusted adult.

Managing Exam Stress

Stress and anxiousness can make you feel less like yourself, but there are things you can do to reduce these feelings.

Talk to Someone

Talk to someone

Speak to a parent or carer, teacher or trusted adult about how you are feeling. You could also phone a helpline if you would prefer to speak to someone anonymously. They will be able to provide support and encouragement and offer a different perspective to help you find practical solutions to coping with exam stress.

Reach Out to Friends

If you have friends who are also taking exams, they will likely be experiencing many of the same thoughts and feelings. Talking to your friends will help you to realise that you are not alone and can help to ease feelings of anxiousness. Arranging revision sessions together can allow you to maintain some social interaction while also helping you to prepare for your exams.

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself

Make sure you are eating properly – including healthy snacks to maintain energy levels while revising – and drink plenty of water. Exercise can help to clear your mind and relieve stress, so take some time to go for a walk, cycle or swim, or take part in a group activity such as football or netball.

Set Boundaries

Although talking to others in the same situation as you can sometimes be helpful, it can also be a source of more stress. Try to avoid surrounding yourself with people that constantly talk about the exams and how stressed they are, as this is likely to make you feel more overwhelmed.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep!

Having a regular routine can help to relieve feelings of stress and anxiousness. Try to make sure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and incorporate things that you enjoy within your daily routine. This can include watching TV, playing games or socialising with friends – it doesn’t all have to be about revision!

Stick to a Routine

Getting enough sleep is important in allowing your mind to rest and reset – most young people need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a night. Don’t stay up too late, and find calming activities to help you wind down before bed. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar too late in the day as, although you might feel more energised in the short-term, these can increase feelings of anxiousness and make it more difficult to get to sleep.

Revision Tips

It can feel stressful when you have several exams coming up and have no idea where to start with your revision. Structuring your revision using these tips can help you to feel less overwhelmed.

Make a Plan

Creating a revision timetable can help to structure your revision and ensure that you are spending enough time on each subject. If you’re not sure where to start, your subject teachers will be able to give you a list of topics to focus on. 

Give Yourself Space

Give yourself a dedicated space for your revision, ideally away from your bed and other spaces you use for relaxing. Having all of your revision in one place will make it easier to find your notes and practice papers when you need them, and it means you can get away from it when you need to. When you take a break, physically move yourself away from your revision space to allow your mind to fully relax. If you prefer not to work at home or don’t have the space, speak to a teacher about working at your school or college.

Set Realistic Targets

If you give yourself too many tasks to complete in a short space of time, you are more likely to feel like you’ve failed if you don’t manage to get everything done. Try to focus on one topic at a time and break up your revision into short chunks of time. This way, you’ll maintain your concentration and feel like you’ve achieved more at the end of the day, instead of worrying about what else you still need to do. It’s also a good idea to prioritise the things you need to work on most, and be prepared to adapt and change these priorities as exams get closer.

Celebrate Success

Revision can feel never-ending, especially if you have lots of exams one after the other. Remember to reward yourself for small wins, such as finishing a chapter of your revision guide or completing a practice paper. It is important to recognise when you have done something well and use this to motivate yourself to carry on.

Keeping Calm During Exams

Entering the exam hall can feel intimidating but there are things you can do to keep yourself calm and remain positive.


Take a few deep breaths in and out to relax your mind and body. Try to block out any distractions and count slowly to ten. It is OK to take a moment to do this if you feel yourself starting to panic at any point during the exam.

Focus on the Paper

Make sure you read the instructions before you start the paper and think about any advice your teachers have given you about how to approach the paper. If you are struggling to get started, you could begin by answering the questions you feel the most confident with. This will give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to have a go at the rest of the questions. 

Move On If You Get Stuck

If you are struggling to answer a particular question, don’t waste time worrying about it. Move on to the next question and come back to it at the end. You might find that you’ve remembered something about that topic in the meantime.

Take Your Time

The exam isn’t a race and you will still have to stay in the exam hall if you finish early, so use your time wisely and make sure you have done as much as you can. It can be helpful to give yourself a set amount of time per question to make sure you are not spending too long on one section, but try not to rush as you might end up making mistakes.

Further Support

For more help and advice on coping with exam stress, you may wish to visit the following websites:

Bitesize Support

Further support when coping with exam stress

To access a wider selection of general exam materials, take a look at our revision support. It contains a great range of resources designed to help students in coping with exam stress and navigate the chaos of assessment season. You can also find more of our blogs here and subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.

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