Exam Anxiety | Turning It Around

Ashleigh is 20 years old and studying Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. Ashleigh is the vice-president of the Where’s your head at? Society at the University of Suffolk. Ashleigh wanted to get involved with Student Life to increase awareness of exam-related stress and ways to reduce it. Stress is shown to be useful for exams in small levels, however when these levels get too high it can negatively affect your studying.

exam stress, anxiety, mental health, student life, university of suffolk

With the May exam period around the corner, students at UoS will start to experience high levels of exam stress. As a student myself, I suffer from stress about exams and have spotted some signs of anxiety in other students during exam time. The main signs are erratic studying, lack of a ‘social life’ or not meeting or talking to friends as much as they normally do. Stress can cause individuals to become restless which could also lead to students not getting the right amount of sleep.


1. Make a revision timetable.

2. Balance out study/work/social life (this can be difficult but it is worth it).

3. Make sure you take breaks, don’t exhaust yourself.

4. Get enough sleep before your exams.

5. Make sure you have a balanced and nutritious diet- try not to skip meals, especially breakfast.

6. Be active, take part in one of the Most Active Student classes in the evening. Physical activity can help to reduce stress, and it will give you a break from studying.

7. Make sure you know the assessment criteria and how to meet it in your exam.

But most of all,

8. Try your best!

Studying is normally best done alone, but working with friends from your course can reduce your anxiety about your upcoming exams. Try to come up with different ways to revise; your friends may have a really good way to remember different elements of your course. Everyone uses different techniques to de-stress during the exam period as well, so maybe try something different.

It’s natural to want to do well at exams, but if wanting to do well becomes worrying, it actually holds us back from performing at our best. So what can we do to reduce worrying?

written by carole thain

Do a simple check to make sure we are getting important physical and emotional needs met; are we getting the right amount and quality of sleep? Are we eating healthy foods on a regular basis, drinking enough water and getting regular exercise? Do we feel safe where we are living and studying? Do we have a structure to our studies which gives us a sense of being in control? Are we accessing the right support from student support services and checking in with tutors regularly enough? Do we get enough privacy to reflect and make calm decisions? 

Stress can give rise to unrealistic thoughts. It’s important to recognise when this is happening and actively challenge thoughts like, “Will I get the grades I need to get a good job?” These kinds of thoughts ignore the reality that while grades might get us an interview, it’s having a positive attitude in the interview and enthusiasm for learning which gets us the job and helps us to progress. If we forget about grades and focus instead on enjoying learning, we will be practising the skills which employers are really looking for, and the grades will take care of themselves. 

Stress might cause us to wonder, “Will I make a mistake which will result in me failing at life?” Again, worrying about making mistakes prevents us from exploring new ideas and deepening our knowledge and skills. We also rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn a vital life skill – how to learn from mistakes and recover from setbacks.

Finally, practicing 7/11 or diaphragmatic breathing on a regular basis can help us to calm down – practice breathing in to a count of 7 and out to a count of 11 for ten minutes every day, and whenever you feel the need to get stress under control.   

If you’re experiencing exam stress, seek help from student support services or visit suffolkmind.org.uk to find out more about how you can manage stress effectively.