How to Stay Calm During an Exam

Exams are an integral part of academic life, but for many students, they can bring on feelings of anxiety and stress. The pressure to perform well can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like everything is riding on this moment.

Staying calm during an exam is essential for performing at your best. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of staying calm during exams and provide tips on how not to panic so you can effectively manage your exam anxiety.

A female student doing an exam
Staying calm will help you do better in an exam.

Understanding exam anxiety

Exam anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and nervousness students experience before or during an exam. Common symptoms of exam anxiety include physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and nausea. 

Causes of exam anxiety can include fear of failure, pressure to perform, lack of preparation, or past negative experiences with exams. The effects of exam anxiety on exam performance can be detrimental, leading to decreased concentration, memory impairment, and poor performance.

A student lying down and looking anxious
Having to do exams can cause people to feel anxiety.

Preparing for the exam

Preparing for an exam is one of the most important steps in reducing anxiety levels during exams. It can help you feel more confident and prepared, which can help you stay calm during the exam.

Below are some tips for preparing for an exam.

Plan ahead

Proper planning is essential to effective exam preparation. Start by reviewing the exam material and making a study schedule that works for you. Make sure to set aside enough time to cover all the topics that will be on the exam. Avoid cramming at the last minute, as this can increase anxiety levels.

It’s also essential to ensure you have all the necessary study materials, such as textbooks, notes, and revision guides. Organise your study materials in a way that is easily accessible and manageable. Consider using technology, such as online study resources, study planners, or educational apps, to support your study efforts.

A post-it note with the text "Deadline today"
It’s good to plan your study schedule ahead, so that you’re well prepared when exam time comes.

Use effective study techniques

Using effective study techniques can also help you prepare for an exam. Some techniques that may be helpful include creating study guides, practising with sample questions, and reviewing notes and textbooks. Finding a study technique that works best for you is also important.

Get enough rest

Getting enough rest is crucial for effective exam preparation. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night in the days leading up to the exam. This can help you feel refreshed and energised, which can, in turn, help you stay calm during the exam.

Staying in comfortable and convenient housing can also help reduce anxiety during exam preparation. A comfortable and well-equipped accommodation can provide a peaceful environment for studying, allowing you to focus on your studies without any distractions. Additionally, staying close to the exam venue can help you save time and reduce stress levels on exam day.

A young woman sleeping
Resting well is vital for good exam results.

Eat a balanced diet

Eating a healthy and nutritious diet can also help you prepare for an exam. Eat foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates, such as fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. These foods can help keep your energy levels up and your mind alert, which can help you stay focused and calm during the exam.

Students eating healthy food
Eating healthy can help you do better at your exams.

Find a comfortable study space

Finding a comfortable study space can also help you prepare for an exam. Choose a quiet and well-lit area to focus on your studies without distractions. This can help you feel more relaxed and in control, which can help reduce anxiety levels during the exam.

Use practice tests

Practice testing is an effective way to prepare for an exam. Practice tests help you familiarise yourself with the exam format, question types, and timing. They also help you identify areas where you need more practice and revision. You can find practice tests online or through your course materials. Allocate specific times to take practice tests, and ensure you simulate exam conditions as closely as possible.

A young man practising taking a test
Doing practice exams can help you prepare for taking the actual exam.

Staying calm during the exam

It’s essential to remain calm during an exam to ensure your performance is not negatively impacted. Here are some techniques to help you stay calm:

  • Relaxation techniques: Before the exam, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to control your nerves and reduce your anxiety levels.
  • Breathing exercises: Taking slow, deep breaths can help you stay calm during the exam. Focus on your breath and try to maintain a regular breathing pattern.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a technique that involves being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations at the moment. Practising mindfulness before the exam can help reduce anxiety levels.
  • Visualisation techniques: Visualising yourself performing well on exams can help reduce anxiety levels. Imagine yourself answering questions with ease and feeling confident.
  • Positive self-talk: Self-talk can greatly impact how you feel during the exam. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations such as “I am capable of doing well on this exam.”
A woman holding a sign with the text "Keep calm"
Finding techniques to help you keep calm during an exam will help you ace your exams.

Other tips to manage exam anxiety

In addition to the techniques listed above, there are other ways to manage exam anxiety:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep can all contribute to reducing anxiety levels.
  • Good stress management: Mindfulness, meditation, journaling, and talking to a friend or family member can effectively manage stress levels.
  • Seeking support: Talking to someone you trust about your anxiety can be a helpful way to manage it. Additionally, seeking support from a counsellor or mental health professional can provide you with strategies to manage your anxiety.
Two young people running on a treadmill
Regular exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle will lead to better exam results.


In conclusion, exam anxiety is a common experience for many students, but it’s important to manage it to ensure the best possible exam performance. Proper preparation, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and positive self-talk can all help reduce anxiety levels. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking support when needed is important.

Remember that feeling anxious is normal, but there are ways to manage it. By implementing the tips and techniques in this article, you can stay calm and perform at your best during exams.