How to Overcome Exam Tension

Four Parts:Taking Care of YourselfReducing Stress While StudyingRemaining Calm During the ExamSeeking Outside Support

Exams can be a major cause of stress if you're a student. You may worry about your grades and future based on the outcome of an exam. Stressing out, however, will only make it harder to take the exam. Work on taking care of yourself. Practice basic self care like eating right and getting enough sleep. Study in a way that does not increase your stress. Study a little bit over a long period of time, allowing yourself to take breaks. Lastly, reach out to others. Talk out your stress with friends. Keeping things bottled up will make stress worse.

Part 1
Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 1
    Get enough sleep to keep you energized for your exam. Not sleeping right can affect your mood, leading to an excess of stress. In the weeks leading up to the exam, make sleep a priority. Strive for solid nights of high quality sleep.[1]
    • If you're still in high school, aim for 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep a night. If you're over 18, 7.5 to 9 hours should be enough.[2]
    • Make sure you establish a regular bedtime. Go to sleep around the same time each night, and do something to help you wind down. You could, for example, have a cup of herbal tea and read a book before bed.
  2. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 2
    Eat right leading up to your exam. You may be tempted to binge eat on junk food due to stress. However, this is unlikely to make you feel more relaxed. Food has a direct effect on your mood, so make sure to eat high quality foods leading up to your exam. This will reduce your overall stress.[3]
    • Avoid high-fat, high-sugar, and high-caffeine foods. These will only increase your stress levels.
    • Instead, go for plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish.[4]
  3. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 3
    Exercise to reduce exam-related stress. If you exercise regularly, do not neglect your work out routine during exam time. It's okay to cut out ten or 15 minutes from your regular routine if you're low on time, but you should not stop exercising altogether because an exam is coming up. Exercise can help regulate your mood, leading to lower overall stress.[5]
    • If you don't normally exercise, this is a good time to start. Try walking or going for a bike ride for 15 minutes a day, around three times a week.
    • You can also exercise with others. Play a game of softball or go for a bike ride with friends.
  4. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 4
    Adopt a positive attitude about school. If you're down on yourself, you're more likely to stress out. Instead of convincing yourself you're doomed to failure, go into the exam with a positive mentality. Adopt a positive personal mantra to keep your mood up while you study.[6]
    • Think of something positive you can say to yourself when you feel stressed. For example, you could say something like, "I'm working hard and I will succeed."
    • When you feel stressed, repeat this mantra while taking deep, soothing breaths.
  5. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 5
    Have perspective regarding your exam. If you're stressed out over an exam, you may be placing too much importance on it. It's good to be conscientious of your grades. You should care about doing well in school. However, try to keep things in perspective. One exam is not going to make or break your life. Do your best, but keep in mind even the worse case scenario will not be a disaster.[7]
    • The worst thing that can happen is you will do bad on the exam. This can be a setback for you academically, but keep in mind everyone screws up an exam at least once in their life.
    • Getting a low grade in one exam, or even one class, is unlikely to affect you much long term. Even if you don't do as well as you hoped, you can bounce back in the future.

Part 2
Reducing Stress While Studying

  1. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 6
    Follow a consistent routine. If you establish a study routine you follow each day, you're more likely to stick to it. A lot of stress comes from feeling inadequately prepared. If you're studying regularly, you'll feel more prepared and therefore less stressed.[8]
    • Figure out what works best for you. If you're a morning person, study in the morning. If you focus better at night, study in the evening.
    • Pick a regular place to study that's free of distractions. If your dorm room tends to be loud, for example, you can study at the library.
    • Make sure to study a little each day, sticking to roughly the same routine.
  2. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 7
    Be proactive about dealing with academic problems. If you panic in the face of a problem, this will only increase your stress level. If you're stuck on a certain subject, don't start stressing out and beating yourself up. Instead, be proactive. Say to yourself, "There's still time to figure out this concept." Then, go about increasing your understanding of the subject.[9]
    • You can spend extra time studying the concept that's confusing you. You can dedicate a single study session to mastering a tricky concept.
    • You can also reach out to your professors or other students for help.
    • If you respond proactively to struggles, you won't feel stressed. You will feel a sense of power at your willingness to overcome difficulties.
  3. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 8
    Take breaks while studying. If your concentration does not last for a full hour, you should take ten to 15 minute breaks throughout your study sessions. Try taking a 15 minute break every hour, for example, and see if that improves your stress level.[10][11]
    • Do something you enjoy during your breaks. Give yourself 15 minutes to watch television or browse Facebook, for example.
  4. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 9
    Accept imperfections regarding your academic performance. There is no such thing as a perfect student. Keep this in mind as you study. You need to accept the fact you will struggle on occasion. Allowing yourself to be imperfect will reduce your stress over an exam.[12]
    • Loosen up your definition of success and failure. Anything less than an "A" does not mean you failed. If you shoot this high while studying, you will get angrier at yourself for perceived failures.
    • Instead of focusing on a concrete outcome, like a certain grade, just try to do your best. Don't think, "I need to get an A." Instead, think, "I need to try my best and be proud of the grade I get."

Part 3
Remaining Calm During the Exam

  1. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 10
    Pack everything you need the night before. Nothing will make an exam more stressful than showing up unprepared. If you start off the exam scrambling to borrow a pen, you'll go in stressed. The night before the exam, get everything you need ready.[13]
    • Prepare a bag with all the essentials. Make sure you have a pen, and anything extra you need, like a calculator. If it's a long exam, you may want to bring a bottle of water.
    • You also may want to do something like lay out the clothes you'll be wearing. This can help you get ready efficiently in the morning.
  2. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 11
    Focus on only the exam. When you're in the exam room, do not let your mind wander. As soon as the exam is set down before you, focus your energy there and nowhere else.[14]
    • Avoid wondering how others are doing. Do not get caught up in the fact someone has finished before you. Keep your energies focused on the exam at hand.
    • Take it one question at a time. Do not worry about the next question while answering the current question.
  3. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 12
    Strive to relax when you feel tense. You may tense up at certain points during the exam. During these times, do something to loosen up. Take a few deep breaths. Stretch. Close your eyes for a few seconds. Taking a few moments to relax can help you ease exam anxiety.[15]
  4. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 13
    Start with the easiest questions. Scan the exam before you start and look for your strong areas. Tackle these questions first. This way, you'll get a chunk of the exam done right away. You'll be feeling more confident as you move on to the other questions. This will also give you more time to focus on the difficult questions.[16]
  5. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 14
    Keep track of time. You do not want to end up scrambling to complete the exam as time is running out. Be conscious of time as you complete the exam. Periodically glance at your watch to make sure you're not giving too much energy or focus to a single question.[17]
    • Break up the exam into sections. If it's, say, three pages, and you have 45 minutes to complete it, try to stick to 15 minutes per page.

Part 4
Seeking Outside Support

  1. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 15
    Ask for help on a subject when you need it. There is no shame in reaching out for help if you're confused. If you're struggling with a concept, talk to your instructor while there's still time. He or she will probably be happy to help you better understand the subject material.[18]
    • You can ask your teacher or professor after class if they can help you with a problem you're having. You can also visit a professor during office hours or email him or her asking for help.
    • Are there any resource centers for students on your campus? If so, visit them. If you're struggling with a math exam, for example, go to your school's math resource center and ask for help.
  2. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 16
    Vent about your exam stress to others. It's never a good idea to keep things bottled up. If you're stressed about an exam, talk to your fellow students. Open up about how you're feeling and ask them for support.[19]
    • Choose friends and family members who tend to be laid back, empathetic, and supportive. These people are more likely to listen and care.
    • Avoid people who are also high stress. If you vent to someone experiencing their own exam stress, the two of you may only stress one another out more.
  3. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 17
    Learn basic study skills from your school. Take advantage of any resources provided to you. Your school may offer classes or seminars teaching basic study skills. Your school's website may also offer advice on study skills. Effective study skills can help reduce overall stress.[20]
  4. Image titled Overcome Exam Tension Step 18
    Consider professional counseling. If you consistently struggle with exam stress, you may have an underlying anxiety disorder. You may engage in certain thoughts and behaviors that worsen you're anxiety. If you're unable to overcome exam stress on your own, seek counseling.[21]
    • If you're a university student, you may be entitled to free counseling from your college.


  • Don't worry because it's just an exam. The more you relax, the better you'll perform in the exam. Don't be nervous over the word 'exam'. Take it as a 'test'.
  • Do not study the last minute before an exam. You won't remember much of what you studied.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (18)

Article Info

Categories: Tests and Exams