Smiling male student stood outside in yellow jumper

Staying on top of YOur exam Nerves

Learn how to prepare for your exams, revise effectively and minimise your stress during exams

It's natural to feel anxious about exams, and there are many different reasons why you might feel a little stressed out.

This page provides tips on how you might manage exam anxiety, and covers 4 key areas: being prepared, physical health, a healthy attitude, and dealing with panic.

The advice below might not remove your anxiety completely, but it should help you to feel less stressed and more effective. Don't worry if you initially find some of the techniques tricky – stick with them, and you'll find they're worthwhile in the end.

Part of coping better with exams lies with knowing that revision should start early. Many students simply don't start revising early enough.

For a summer exam, you should begin revising around early February. To store information in your long-term memory it needs to be repeatedly revisited over time. 

Remember that you don’t have to be chained to your desk while you revise. You can revise on the move – while you're walking, cleaning, or standing in a queue. This can help both your understanding and your memory.

You can also seek support from our Academic Skills Unit, known as Ask, and our Wellbeing team. You'll find them both in the Nuffield building. You could also see your Faculty Support Tutors, or talk to your tutors and lecturers.

Be prepared

Starting your revision early is key, but as your exam draws closer, it's a great idea to familiarise yourself – as far as you can – with what the exam will be like. You can't know everything about an exam, but you can make sure you know the following 6 things, each of which might help reduce your exam stress and anxiety:

  • Explore the exam topics and consider what might come up in the exam
  • Know the day, time and duration of each exam – and put the information in your diary or calendar
  • If you can, visit the venue to familiarise yourself with how to get there, where you could wait, and what the exam room itself looks like
  • Find out if there is any equipment which may, or may not, be allowed – you don't want to be taken by surprise on the day
  • Find out how the exam paper or task is structured – whether it's multiple choice, a short answer, a long answer or practical. You could also ask if the paper or task is divided into sections
  • You might have access to past papers – if so, it's well worth finding and using them

Look after your physical health

This is important for all of us all of the time, but it is even more important during times of high pressure. A better diet and the right amount of sleep can help increase energy, and therefore aid concentration and focus. Consequently, you may find that your memory and understanding improve.

Try to:

  • Have breakfast on the morning of an exam to keep your blood sugar levels up in a healthy way
  • Have a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables; also include foods that release energy slowly, such as brown rice, oats, nuts and seeds
  • Get as much exercise as you can – it could improve your mood and your concentration levels
  • Get enough sleep, and at regular times – a lack of sleep will affect your ability to recall and communicate information. If anxiety affects your sleep, it is especially important to stick to a routine by going to bed at a regular time and, if needed, seek support

Download our tips for dealing with exam stress 

Download this page as a PDF for your exam notes.

Do you want help with dealing with exams stress?

We can help. Book your Academic Skills Unit (ASK) tutorial now at

Contact us

This site uses cookies. Click here to view our cookie policy message.

Accept and close