If just hearing the word 'exam' makes your heart beat a little faster, you're not alone. The majority of students experience anxiety and stress before exams; it is very normal to feel pressure and nervousness leading up to (and during) exams. It is part of the human condition to want to do well, and sometimes anxiety can get in the way of doing the absolute best you can. For me, my anxiety never completely goes away- it is always present in one way or another. However, I have compiled a list of ways you can reduce anxiety and stress surrounding exams, both before and during:


1. Be prepared: If you know the content, you won't have to stress so much about failing. Study notes are really helpful- highlight key points that may be covered in the exam.

2. Study throughout the semester, not just the night before: My mum used to tell me that 'if I just kept my room clean, I wouldn't have to do a huge clean up'. While that idea seemed silly to me at the time, I realise now that the same applies to most things in life, especially studying. Unless you have an photographic memory, there is no way you can absorb weeks or months worth of information in one sitting. 

3. Try to have a good night's sleep the night before: while staying up 'til 3am studying may seem like a good way to cram in extra knowledge, the lack of sleep will really affect your concentration and ability to do well on the test. Studying thoroughly well in advance will ensure you don't need to lose that vital sleep.

4. Don't sit an exam on an empty stomach: food = energy and alertness, so fill up before the exam to avoid falling asleep on your test paper... or having the whole room hear your stomach growl.

5. Leave yourself plenty of time: there's nothing worse than rushing to get to your exam, and walking in late and stressed. Aim to arrive early in time to find the exam room, and do a quick once over of your notes beforehand.


1. You're prepared, so you can relax: you've learned everything you possibly can up until this point. There's no use stressing about the study you could have or should have done- just focus on the present.

2. Remember to breathe (literally and figuratively): take deep breaths to keep the oxygen flowing to your brain. Also, focusing on your breathing helps you relax.

3. Read the questions carefully: focus on what is being asked and answer exactly that- try not to ramble! Read through each question twice before answering it to make sure you've got the right idea.

4. If you go blank, skip the question and come back to it: try not to stare at a question for too long. If you read it and can't think of an answer, move on to the next question and come back to it with fresh eyes at the end. It's better to focus on the questions you do know, where you can get definite marks.

5. Remember: this one exam is not the end of the world. Nothing is worth beating yourself up over. Be kind and gentle to yourself, and good luck!

Published by Kahlia Tipping