5 tips to calm exam nerves

So, it’s exam season. You’ve been advised to ‘stay calm’, ‘take some time for yourself’, ‘avoid cramming information’ and ‘take regular breaks’, but let’s face it, that’s all a little easier said than done when your only goal is to do well. Here are five tips for keeping a level-head during the exam period.

1. Take a timeout 

Giving yourself time off during the exam period is very important for avoiding burn out.  

If you’re revising for upcoming exams, plan frequent breaks. People can only concentrate effectively for 30–45 minutes at a time, so shackling yourself to your desk will be counterproductive. Apps such as Forest use the Pomodoro method to help you achieve the balance between focus and relaxation. 

🛀 Unwind after each exam or revision period. Go for food with friends or cook something nice at home; catch up on a Netflix series; chill in the tub or do something creative. Whatever you choose, the aim is to give yourself some chill time. You’ll reap the benefits when it comes to productivity.  

2. Move your body 

🏋️‍♂️ Physical activity is good for the mind, so whether you like going for a run, doing some yoga or weight training, moving your body can help clear your thoughts and get you thinking about something else. 

🌞 Being outside is particularly good for taking a timeout, even if it’s just a brief stroll. Fresh air will help to clear your head and exposure to sunlight will release serotonin in your brain, boosting your mood and helping you feel calmer and more focused. 

3. Enjoy pockets of silence  

🤫  Even though it’s something many of us find uncomfortable, having periods of silence throughout the day can be invaluable when it comes to revising and staying calm.

📖 The mind responds to stimulus, so if you’re always surrounded by noise (or TikTok), it’ll be harder to focus and your thoughts will feel more cluttered. Introduce silence into your day, even if it’s reading a book for ten minutes or practicing some breath-focused meditation, your busy brain will thank you for it! 

 4. Give your body what it needs  

Your body will look after your mind and help you to minimise stress and anxiety, but only if you give it the chance.  

😴 Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Scrolling on your phone or any blue-light device before bed can affect how quickly you nod off, so give yourself a cut-off time. If you’re tempted to check your notifications before bed, try putting your phone on ‘do not disturb’ or setting a ‘sleep focus’ for a certain time in the evening. 

🥦 When it comes to brain fuel, opt for slow-release foods such as multi-grain bread, porridge, nuts, vegetables and fish and avoid caffeine and junk food as much as you can. Yes, they provide a quick energy boost, but their effects are short-lived and can leave you feeling sluggish – not ideal when you need to bring your A game to that exam room.  

5. Get prepped 

📆 It’s normal to feel uneasy the night before an exam, but don’t cram information in haste. Have a final read over your revision notes and then get your things ready for the morning. Check your exam details, plan your travel – accounting for delays – and prepare what you need for the exam room e.g water, student ID, medication or equipment.  

👏 Finally, remember, exam success doesn’t define you as a person. Everyone copes differently and there’s far more to who you are than how well you respond to exam pressure. Give yourself a break – you’re doing great. 

Good luck!