Tutorful logo
Become a tutor Login
Back to Blog
How to Overcome Exam Fear

How to Overcome Exam Fear

Most of us don’t particularly like exams. But for some, exam fear can be debilitating. It can even lead to headaches, high blood pressure and panic attacks.

Don’t worry. There are ways to overcome exam fear!

Here, we’ll explore all you need to know – from the best coping techniques to how parents can help children with exam stress.

Need expert help with exam fear? Finding a tutor you really click with can be a great confidence booster.

CTA Banner
Register and receive £25 credit towards your first lesson
Browse expert, vetted tutors, message for free, and book instantly.
Find a tutor

What does exam fear look like?

Exam fear can affect students both physically and emotionally.

Just a few symptoms to look out for include negative thoughts, panic attacks, sweating and shaking. You might also experience high blood pressure, headaches, an increased heartbeat… or even exam fever!

If you or your child are experiencing symptoms like these, you’re not alone. 

Research shows that around 15% of GCSE students are highly test anxious (head over to GOV.UK to learn more).

Which brings us onto…

How to get rid of exam fear

Exam fear can affect students before, during and even after exams.

But luckily, there are ways to overcome it at every stage. Here are some top tips, verified by our expert tutors.

How to overcome exam fear in the lead-up to exams

Often, exam fear will kick in while you’re revising – especially if you don’t feel like your revision is on track, or if you’re struggling to concentrate.

Try these hacks to avoid it.

Start revision early

Ever ended up having too much to learn in too little time? It’s definitely a way to create a stressful situation!

By starting your revision early, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of being fully prepared by the time your exams roll around. Plus, you won’t be tempted to put yourself through the stress of late-night cramming, which can do more harm than good.

Create a revision timetable

Sitting down to study without a revision timetable can be overwhelming – where should you start?

That’s why creating – and sticking to – a revision timetable is a must. It will ensure that you have a decent amount of time to spend on each subject. Plus, getting it down on paper will take away from your mental to-do list.  

Girl creating a revision table to overcome exam fear

Don’t worry if things slip

Equally, remember that things change. If you’re struggling to stick to your revision timetable, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Instead, make tweaks to get yourself back on track. Nothing ever goes completely to plan, and that’s okay!

Take regular breaks

Make sure that your revision timetable leaves plenty of room for breaks – both long and short.

Here’s what core subjects tutor Katherine has to say:

“I would say don’t cram, take 20 minute study sessions then take a break. Look after yourself and try to stick to regular bedtimes, no computers late at night etc.

“Get some fresh air and exercise to help with pent up energy or nerves too.”

Remember, there’s only so much a brain can assimilate in a day, and the last thing you want is to burn yourself out. Whether it’s a walk between study sessions or a cinema trip with a friend, we all need a bit of time away from studying!

Offload to someone

A problem halved is a problem shared. If you’re struggling with stress ahead of your exams, take some time to chat about it with a friend, parent or mentor.

It can be really helpful to get a tutor involved too. They’ll have experience dealing with exam stress and will be able to help boost your confidence ahead of the big day.

Try different revision techniques

We all learn differently. If you’re struggling to remember information or to concentrate when you’re revising, try to mix things up.

You could use flashcards, highlight important points while reading or get a parent or tutor to test you. This can all make studying more enjoyable and – dare we say it – even fun!

CTA Banner
Register and receive £25 credit towards your first lesson
Browse expert, vetted tutors, message for free, and book instantly.
Find a tutor

How to deal with exam fear on the day

When exam day rolls around, it’s natural to feel stressed and anxious. Here are some simple steps you can take to stay calm.

Don’t skip breakfast

If you have butterflies in your stomach, skipping breakfast might seem like a good idea. But you need to make sure you’re properly fuelled for your exams.

Ditch the sugary cereal in favour of slow-release carbohydrates like porridge oats. That way, you can ensure a steady supply of energy to keep you going.

Get someone to check you have all you need

There’s nothing worse that turning up to your exams only to realise you’ve left something important behind. Check that you have pens, pencils and anything else you need before leaving home.

Why not get someone else to check for you too? It’s a great way to prevent those ‘have I forgotten something?’ moments on the way to your exam.

Get there early

If you’re already stressed, the last thing you need is to turn it up a notch by getting held up in a traffic jam.

Giving yourself plenty of time to get to your exam will give you one less thing to worry about. Plus, extra time to get familiar with your surroundings is always a positive!

Listen to a calming playlist

Did you know that music can influence your mood and reduce stress?

Upbeat, happy music can encourage our brains to produce dopamine and serotonin – which evoke feelings of joy. Meanwhile, calming music will relax both your mind and body. Find what works for you and then listen to it to get in the right mood before your exam starts.

Boy listening to music to help with exam fear

Be brave and have a go

There’s always going to be one question that throws you, no matter how hard you revise. 

Don’t let that bring you down – it’s no reflection of how well you’ve prepared. Instead, read it through a few times and give it your best shot.

Maths tutor Dee says:

“In Maths exams, it is easy to skip questions thinking ‘If I don’t attempt it, I won’t put down anything wrong.’ 

“It is important to realise that a blank answer guarantees zero marks, whereas an attempted answer may gain some marks for working out – and worst case, zero marks, which is no worse than skipping. 

“Be brave and have a go. The extra mark here and there is worth it!”

Shihab, another of our maths tutors, agrees:

“I always tell my students to attempt even just part of it. Even if they reach a dead end, they may have picked up a mark or 2. 

“Doing this here and there is often the difference in getting a better grade when going through past papers.”

Plan your time

Give yourself a set amount of time to answer each question. That way, you can make sure you’re not rushing towards the end.

Oh, and make sure to allocate 10 minutes to check your answers through before you hand in your paper!

How to avoid exam fear after you’ve handed in your paper

Some of us forget all about our exams as soon as we’ve handed in that paper. But for many, this is only the start of the battle.

You might worry about your results, compare yourself with others or get caught up thinking about what you should or shouldn’t have done. Here’s what to do instead.

Treat yourself

Instead of beating yourself up for how you think your exam went, focus on rewarding yourself. 

Whatever happens, you can be proud for giving your 100%. And that definitely calls for an ice cream, a new pair of shoes or a fun trip out. Remember, you won’t know your results until later down the line, so there’s no use second-guessing.

Don’t compare answers

After an exam, there’s always a group of students comparing what they put down for each question. Don’t get sucked in!

The best that can happen is that you got the same answer as a friend. The worst? You realise you put down something different, which leads to a spiral of self-doubt. It’s just not worth it.

Take your mind off things

When your exam has been the focus of your attention for so long, it’s easy to replay it in your head over and over again, thinking about everything you could have done differently. Don’t!

Instead, try to de-stress by doing something fun that will take your mind off things. Maybe it’s a hobby or a trip to get some pizza? Whatever floats your boat.

Girl carrying books

Put things into perspective

You should be proud of yourself for putting your all into your exam. But placing too much importance on it can just ramp up the pressure and lead to even more stress.

Instead, remember that your exam isn’t the be all and end all. Whatever the result, you tried your best and life will go on!

Our core subjects tutor Katherine advises:

“Talk to family and friends and manage your expectations but don’t focus on over criticising yourself. Watch those negative little voices in your head!

“Know that you have worked hard and therefore tried your best.”

CTA Banner
Register and receive £25 credit towards your first lesson
Browse expert, vetted tutors, message for free, and book instantly.
Find a tutor

How to help your child with exam stress

As a parent, watching your child suffer from exam fear can be difficult. But you’re not completely powerless.

Instead, there are a number of things parents can do to help children with exam stress. Here’s how to help someone with exam anxiety.

1. Give them the right fuel

One of the best things you can do as a parent is make sure your child is eating, drinking and sleeping enough.

It might be tempting for them to carry out an all-night study session. But cramming isn’t always productive and a good night’s sleep is likely to be much more effective. 

2. Try not to pile on the pressure

As a parent, you want the best for your child. But don’t let that lead you into piling on the pressure.

Your child is likely under enough pressure as it is. Instead, be their biggest cheerleader – a pat on the back and word of encouragement can make all the difference.

3. Get the help of a tutor

Sometimes, a fresh perspective is necessary.

A tutor that your child clicks with will be able to motivate them and answer any last-minute questions. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll provide that all-important confidence boost ahead of the exams!

4. Don’t compare them

Every student is on their own journey. As tempting as it can be, try not to compare your child to their peers.

Similarly, remember that what works best for you might not work best for them. Rather, help them to figure out their own way of studying.

5. Be a sounding board

Take an interest in your child’s revision and be there to help support them if they need it.

They might want to talk through questions with you or get tested on what they’ve learned. Equally, make it clear that you’re there to talk if they’re struggling with stress and fear – and that you’ll listen without judgment.

6. Be positive

One of the best ways to comfort someone who is stressed about exams is to be positive.

Instead of talking about exams negatively, bring in lots of energy and enthusiasm to replace those feelings of fear with positivity. With the proper planning and strategy, your child can overcome exam fear and achieve anything!

Learn more about supporting a stressed and anxious teenager in our dedicated guide.

Get help from a tutor your child clicks with

If your child is experiencing exam fear or stress, you don’t have to struggle alone.

Instead, a tutor who your child really clicks with will know exactly how to unlock your child’s potential and settle those nerves.

Find a tutor who can boost your child’s confidence and guide them to better exam results today.

CTA Banner
Register and receive £25 credit towards your first lesson
Browse expert, vetted tutors, message for free, and book instantly.
Find a tutor

FAQs

How do I stop being scared of exams?

There are many different steps you can take to stop being scared of exams. Just a few include starting revision early, embracing relaxation techniques and talking to your tutor so that they can help you cope.

How can I calm my nerves before an exam?

Listening to relaxing music is a great way to calm your nerves before an exam. Music has been proven to influence your mood and even reduce stress! 

How do I stop stressing about exams?

It’s important to take your exams seriously, but relying on your exam results for your self-worth or comparing yourself to others can lead to exam stress.

Instead, remember that everybody is on their own journey. It’s important to give your exams 100% but, whatever happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

How do you calm exam anxiety?

If you’re feeling anxious about your exams, it can be tempting to burn yourself out by revising all hours of the day. But making time for the things you enjoy will help you to calm your exam anxiety.

For instance, take the time to exercise, have fun with your friends and continue with your hobbies. It’s all about finding a balance.

Why do I have exam anxiety?

There are lots of different things that can contribute towards exam fear or anxiety. Some of the most common include:

  • Fear of performing badly

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Relying on grades for your self-worth

  • High expectations

  • Comparing yourself to others

How do you comfort someone who is stressed about exams?

One of the best ways to comfort someone who is stressed about exams is to be positive and reassuring. Make sure your child knows that if they don’t do well, it’s not the end of the world. They may be able to take the exam again and life will go on!

Hiring a private tutor can also be a great comfort to someone who is stressed about exams. A tutor will have the experience needed to boost your child’s confidence and have them walking into that exam room full of positive energy.

CTA Banner
Register and receive £25 credit towards your first lesson
Browse expert, vetted tutors, message for free, and book instantly.
Find a tutor
Imogen Beech

Imogen Beech

8th May 2024