UCL Accommodation


How to cope with exam nerves

30 April 2021

Feeling nervous before exams is a very normal reaction, however there are steps you can take to help you cope before each assessment. UCL student Toni Oduwole provides her best tips.

laptop and coffee - How to cope with exam nerves

1. Talk to someone

The best way to deal with nerves about upcoming exams is to share how you’re feeling with friends or family. 

The saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” applies for almost any situation, including coping with exam nerves. Talking to someone allows you to voice your feelings rather than bottling it all up.

Try to speak to people on your course because they will understand the stress of the workload; it is likely that they will feel the same way that you do. 

Organising group study sessions will make you feel more confident about the content of the exam as well as give you the opportunity to share practical study tips and resources.
Talking to someone might mean reaching out to UCL Student Support Services if you are struggling. There is no shame in reaching out for help if you need it. 

2. Put things into perspective 

When faced with nerves, it is easy to catastrophise and fall into a trail of negative thoughts. Obsessing about “what if I fail?” is counterproductive and will often add to the anxiety you’re feeling. 

Look at the worst-case scenario as being failure or a low score. There may be an opportunity to retake the exam or improve your overall mark by scoring highly in other areas of the course. 

This shows that even if the worst-case scenario did happen, there would be a solution.

Putting things into perspective allows you to realise that although exams are important, they are not more important than your mental or physical wellbeing.

3. Make sure you are prepared

Preparation is key in ridding exam nerves. Think practically about the time you have left until each exam and what you need to do before then. 

Effective planning will ensure that you have scheduled enough time to cover the material needed but try not to be too ambitious and make sure you set realistic goals for revision.

This way you are likely to stick to your plan but also won’t feel overwhelmed. 

That being said, don’t be upset if you fail to go over everything that is scheduled for a particular day – being able to adjust your timetable is part of effective planning.

4. Think positively

Remember to be kind to yourself. Exam nerves are normal; we all know that exams are important and feeling nervous is the body’s natural response to situations that cause anxiety.

Believe in yourself. If you are taking steps to prepare then there is no reason it will not go well. 

Think about how far you’ve come already, whatever you have done in the past to get to this point has worked!

Finally, take time aside to just breathe, don’t panic – you’ve got this!

Image credit: Lauren Mancke on Unsplash