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How to Beat Pre-Exam Stress

Stressed student

There’s nothing quite like showing up to an exam and sensing the tension and fear in the air. Despite having committed to being as prepared as possible for an exam, the stress that exams bring can still have an effect on you. Some common signs of pre-exam stress include: irritability, poor concentration, recurring worrying thoughts, restless nights, and feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

I know pre-exam stress all too well and I’ll admit to being a ‘stress head’. In the lead up to exams, I always felt tense and like I was running on adrenaline. Before exams I would usually feel nauseous and could feel my heart pounding in my chest. So how did I reduce my exam stress? Here are my go-to tips…

Be prepared

Good preparation can really help to reduce stress when exams roll around. Plan your studies and begin revising and writing your exam notes early, but don’t forget to factor in some down time.


Our bodies can’t function without sleep, so sleepless nights spent studying aren’t going to do any good. If you’re tired, your body is more susceptible to stress, and you won’t be able to concentrate as well in an exam. I always try to stop studying early in the evening on the night before an exam to give myself plenty of time to wind down and relax.


Heart beating fast? Sweaty palms? Mind spinning out of control? Take a break from the books, find a quiet spot to sit or lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply to slow down the heart rate. Focus on trying to relax any areas of tension in your body. I carry most of my tension in my shoulders when I’m stressed, so my focus would always be to release any tension stored there.


Meditation can be used to bring a feeling of calm and can even help improve concentration. I can vouch for the fact that it might be difficult at first to meditate if your brain is running on overload, but give it time and commit to it. I like to meditate just before bed because it makes me completely forget about the day I’ve had and I find that it helps me to fall asleep.


Are you finding studying frustrating? Struggling to focus? Break up your study sessions with some exercise. Depending on what kind of activity you prefer, going for a run or going to a yoga class may help you to take your mind of study and impending exams and allow you to reduce any pre-exam stress. I find yoga to be an effective way to focus my attention on the way my body is feeling and it leaves me feeling invigorated and peaceful, especially when some meditation is incorporated into the class.

If you can learn to stress less in the lead up to exams, they won’t seem so daunting after all.

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