Exam stress

An exam hall full of wooden-topped folding tables and green plastic chairs.

It is perfectly normal to feel stressed in the lead up to or during an exam. This can actually be of benefit as it motivates you, helps you complete tasks more efficiently and boosts your memory.  

Unsurprisingly, revision and being prepared for your exams is the best way to reduce anxiety. Ahead of an exam, try to keep things in perspective and make sure you:

  • Take regular breaks
  • Get some sleep
  • Eat well
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep active
  • Schedule in some relaxation time

There are lots of revision tips available online; take a look at the resources and links provided at the bottom of this page.

Too stressed

If you become too stressed, you may start to panic. If this happens during an exam, take five minutes to calm yourself using one of the exercises below.

  • Breathe slowly through your nose and make sure you exhale for as long as you inhale
  • Visualise a calm place or person and let yourself spend two minutes thinking about this
  • Focus on the present – think about what the person in front of you is wearing
  • Cup your hands over your nose and mouth to breathe in more carbon dioxide
  • Do something you find easy that makes you think (draw a doodle or write your name backwards)
  • Observe and explain your symptoms to yourself as mere anxiety reactions, eg "I'm dizzy because panic leads to constriction of the arteries to my brain"
  • Do something physical: stretch your legs, roll your shoulders, lean back or look at the ceiling
  • Talk directly to the panic: "Forget it, you are not winning, now go away"
  • Remind yourself that panic attacks are not actually dangerous, just unpleasant
  • Know that your panic will end.

In crisis now

Call 999 for emergency services - or for security services on campus call 01904 32 3333 or use the Safezone app.

Related content


Still from the ODT Mindfulness video - image of a flower in sunshine

Mindfulness can help you focus and stay present in the moment while studying.

You may find our mindfulness videos helpful:

Excercise 1: Mindfulness

Exercise 2: Counting the breath

Exercise 3: Mindfulness of sound

Self-help podcasts and apps


The Mental Health Foundation has several podcasts that can help you relax.


Workshops and groups

See our  Workshops and groups page for workshops that may help with exam stress and wellbeing.