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7 ways to overcome exam anxiety

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Exams and formal assessments such as GCSE, AS level and A level exams are going as normal this summer. Still, even without the additional pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, this period takes its toll on students. Many are dealing with the so-called test anxiety - something more than simply nervousness. Research shows that it negatively affects the mental health and exam performance of up to 60% of students.

Let's talk about the signs of test anxiety and the steps that can be taken to overcome it both before and during a stressful exam.

What's the difference between simple stress and real test anxiety?

Unlike simple nervousness, test anxiety can interfere with a child's daily life and make it more difficult for students to demonstrate their full potential.

Here're both physical and psychological signs that parents should be aware of:

  • out of nowhere stomach aches, headaches, increased heart rate and palpitations, shaking, sweating, and panic

  • a lack of self-confidence, negative thoughts and self-doubt

  • difficulty studying and interpreting information

  • irritability

  • loss of interest in things they usually enjoy

Best strategies for coping with test anxiety

1. Learn how to prepare for an exam more efficiently

More effective learning strategies make studying less overwhelming. Some great study skills to develop and improve include:

  • set goals and milestones for yourself to increase motivation

  • use spaced repetition to review the material regularly

  • join group study sessions

  • use platforms and apps like Notion to make a good study plan, keep track of your progress, and build good habits

You can also check out tips from other students who went through the same experience, like this student's, explaining his preparation process for GCSE mocks.

2. Stick to certain routines

Creating a plan and following a particular pattern (for example, when and how long to study, revise, and take breaks) helps better cope with exam-induced stress.

3. Learn how to relax

Try different techniques to relieve your exam-related worries: deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, and visualizing success (by simply picturing yourself achieving your goals, writing them down on sticky notes, or even creating a vision board).

4. Sleep and eat well

Regular sleep and a good diet (including drinking enough water) are essential for good mental and physical health. Don't pull all-nighters and avoid certain drinks and foods like sugary drinks, which can cause your blood sugar level to surge and then drop, and energy drinks or coffee, which can add to the feelings of anxiety.

5. Get family support

It's very important for parents to be supportive and help their children focus on the positive. Spending quality time together, being encouraging and reassuring, and giving to understand that there's more to life than exam results: all of it can greatly contribute to alleviating exam-related anxiety.

6. Try talking to your teacher, or getting mental health support at your school

Your teachers might provide you with helpful resources and advice on how to better approach your studies and exam questions. You can also find someone inside your school who knows how to support children in this difficult period.

7. Become better at tests

It's also important to learn how to make the most of your time at an exam, for example, by avoiding taking too much time on any one question or skipping especially difficult questions until the others are answered.

Want to know more about A-level exams preparation and British education in general? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for entry to universities in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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