Exam Anxiety

Different techniques work for different people, so experiment to find the approach that is right for you.  Learning to manage panicky feelings takes practice. Give yourself enough time to master these techniques before you actually sit your exams.

  • Thought-stopping techniques

When we become anxious we rapidly generate negative thoughts (“I can’t answer anything”, “I’m going to totally fail”, etc). If this happens, halt the spiralling thoughts by mentally shouting, “STOP!” Picture a road STOP sign, or traffic lights on red. Once you have literally stopped your thoughts, you can proceed more rationally or practice a brief relaxation technique.

  • Use a calming phrase

Derived from meditation, a mantra is a word or phrase which you can repeat to yourself. Saying something like “calm down”, “take it nice and slow” under your breath or in your head, several times, can help defuse anxiety.

  • Find a brief external focus

Look out the window, notice the number of people in the room wearing blue clothing, count up the number of desks in the two front rows…. this will help to briefly distract your attention from anxious thoughts and ground you again. Engage in one of these focusing exercises for a few moments, then return to the task at hand.

  • Bridging objects

It can help to carry or wear something with a positive connection to another person or place.  Touching this ‘bridging object’ can be comforting in its own right. Allow yourself a few minutes to think about the person or situation which makes you feel more secure.  This can have a calming effect, and help you return to the challenge at hand.

  • Positive self talk

During exam anxiety or panic, we often bombard ourselves with negative messages, e.g. “I can’t do this” or “I’m useless”. Try to consciously replace these with more positive and encouraging thoughts: “I’m getting there”; “This isn’t actually so bad,” “It’s going okay so far.”