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A student struggling with exam nerves. Find out how to manage exam nerves

4 ways to manage exam nerves

2 min read
  • Stress management & well-being
  • Study skills & exam prep

Exams make some students very nervous. One of the consequences of Michael Gove scrapping modular exams in 2012 was that the ability to perform under pressure became an even more important skill. Now more than ever it is not enough for students to have knowledge, they are required to demonstrate that ability when it matters most. Here are four simple tips to help them manage exam nerves.

4 ways your students can manage exam nerves

  1. Slow down – In exams, students may rush, as they underestimate how much time they have. This leads to sloppy mistakes. By slowing down or pausing for a moment, students allow themselves to fully assess the situation, come up with a plan and decide the best course of action.
  2. Drink some water – One of the side-effects of being stressed is having a dry mouth. If this happens to nervous students in an exam, it can create a vicious cycle; being aware of their dry mouth makes them realise how stressed they are, making their mouth even drier. Sipping water can help alleviate this physiological sign of nerves as well as helping increase concentration and memory.
  3. Nerves aren’t always bad – Nerves can help you prepare more thoroughly and focus better. As the authors of this study state, “In certain situations, worry may enhance performance and facilitate concentration, because an individual who is worried about something may allocate extra mental resources that could enhance performance.” A simple way of seeing it is that nerves mean you care. If directed at the task at hand, people who care may concentrate more and try harder.
  4. Listen to music – Listening to chilled music is a good way to help manage exam nerves in the build up to an exam (though not while revising, which is something we will blog about soon). When listening to relaxing music, their heart-rate will lower and their mood will improve. In a recent study, the effects of listening to relaxing music were found to have long-term benefits and even had the equivalent positive impact on anxious people as getting a massage.  

For more revision help have a look at our page Best Ways to Revise – where you’ll also find links to great blogs that will help you do your best during exams. 

We will teach your students to thrive under pressure with key stress management skills. Ideal in the lead up to exams.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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