student using a workbook

How To Cope With Exam Stress

Posted: 17th March 2023

student using a workbook

Exam season is never easy, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you’re not alone.  Stress is a natural, hormonal reaction in which our central nervous system switches to “fight or flight” mode.  While a little stress can help motivate you to revise, too much can cause mental and physical symptoms to occur.

It’s important to check in with how we are feeling physically and emotionally so we can recognize when we are getting too stressed. The following is a list of some symptoms you may experience if your stress levels become too high during exams:

  • Feeling confused
  • Losing touch with friends
  • Feeling moody and low
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tense muscle
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Fidgeting, nail biting or teeth grinding

What Can I Do If I Start Feeling Stressed?

  • Remember to breathe: set aside a couple of minutes each day to practice mindfulness. This will help to calm your body’s stress response and shift your attention back to the present moment. Mindfulness involves silently paying attention to thoughts, sounds, and the sensations of breathing, bringing your attention back to this when your mind starts to wonder. You can practice mindfulness anywhere alone, but there are also resources to help such as Headspace, which provide guided meditations.
  • If you are struggling, talk to someone. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Talk to friends, family, or a trusted teacher. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need additional support.At Bath Academy, if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, please talk to a member of staff. Our welfare officer, Natalia, is always on hand to offer advice and support. If you would like to talk to her, she is available in room 9, or you can email:

What Causes Exam Stress?

One of the best ways to combat stress is to acknowledge the reasons why we become stressed. The following is a list of common causes of exam stress, along with what you can do to prevent them:

Fear of Failure

  • Exam success does not define you as a person. Everyone reacts differently to different situations – there’s so much more to you as a person than how well you can respond to an exam.
  • Believe in yourself! When we’re faced with new challenges, we often forget about how much we have already achieved. Think about how many assessments and mocks you have already completed – if you have prepared well and you think positively, you should be okay!
  • Forget about the exam once it’s finished. There’s nothing you can do about it, and worrying won’t change your mark.
  • You may be able to re-sit. In the worst-case scenario, you may be able to re-sit the exam – not everything goes right the first time!

Wanting to Achieve Specific Results

  • In the future, employers won’t just look at your exam scores. They’ll also be interested in your attitude, transferrable skills and how well you’ll get on with other people.
  • If you don’t reach the requirements you need, you may be able to re-sit. Alternatively, there may be other pathways which will allow you to get to where you want to be.

Having Difficulties Understanding the Content

  • Talk to your course friends or teacher as they may be able to fix your understanding and point out where you’re going wrong.
  • Attend one of our Study Skills Workshops or Revision Courses throughout the year to ensure you are organized and address the areas of your subjects you find difficult ahead of time.

Comparing yourself to others

  • Don’t compare grades to others – we are all different and have different strengths.
  • Don’t be put off by friends saying that they are doing huge amounts of revision. We all work in different ways and their revision techniques may not be productive or efficient for you.

Not Feeling Prepared/Not Having Enough Time to Study

  • Be organized! Break your revision down into small chunks and form a plan.
  • Set realistic goals. Try not to set yourself up to fail by setting yourself goals that you won’t be able to meet. Having realistic targets will be much more motivational.
  • Don’t panic if you go slightly off schedule – tomorrow is another day.
  • Don’t ignore the problem! Some students deal with stress by ignoring their revision, which leads to more stress in the long run.

Feeling Pressure from Family

Communicate with your family about what your expectations for exams are so you can all be on the same page.

Remember that it is normal to feel stressed during exam season, but it is important that if you are feeling overwhelmed you get support. Talk to a good friend, family member or teacher if you need to and, if you need extra support or you are struggling to cope, you can seek additional help:

Samaritans – open to talk 24/7: tel:116123 email:
Childline – if you are under 19, you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small. Tel: 0800 11 11
The Mix – offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them. Email support available this online contact form. Or you can use their free 1-2-1 webchat service

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