How to Overcome Examination Anxiety
When Preparing for Your Final Exams

See also: Revision Skills

Preparing for your final exam is certainly stressful and overwhelming. Fear of failure and pressure to pass your exams often lead to examination anxiety. Test anxiety is challenging, as your test scores and grades won’t reflect your true abilities. While feeling nervous before an exam is normal, you should do something if your anxiety levels are debilitating.

Most people with examination anxiety experience racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, and physical symptoms like headache and fast heartbeat. If you have experienced this, the following tips to learn more about test anxiety and how you can overcome this feeling.

Man sitting in a leather chair with his hand over his face.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is the constant feeling of fear, nervousness, and worry that comes right before an exam. Examination anxiety is common and affects students of all ages. Unfortunately, severe examination anxiety can interfere with your ability to perform well. While many factors can cause test anxiety, the fear of failure and lack of confidence are the main causes. Other causes include work-related stress, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and past anxieties.

Most people get exam anxiety when preparing for their final exam because there’s a lot at stake. How well you perform in the final exam is the difference between getting a degree or achieving professional qualification. With a lot depending on the outcome of the test, it isn’t surprising that exams can make you nervous.

You can also develop anxiety due to poor previous performance or lack of proper preparation. It is normal to get anxious if you didn’t perform well in your past exams or re-sitting a test you failed.

Common Signs of Exam Anxiety

Anxiety manifests in different signs and symptoms. Some people develop physical symptoms, while others get emotional issues. Exam anxiety can also lead to behavioral symptoms, which affect how students act or behave. You should suspect examination anxiety if you develop the following symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling and nervousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach upsets, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Sweating hands
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches and muscle tension
  • Avoiding studying

Emotionally affected students often feel hopeless and distressed. They may also feel worthless and frustrated, which negatively affects their results.

How to Manage and Reduce Exam Anxiety

Severe test anxiety can affect your performance. It interferes with your ability to focus on studying, memory, and decision-making. The following tips can help you manage exam anxiety:

1. Start Early and Organize

Preparing for your examinations early helps avoid test anxiety. Initiating your studies in advance gives you ample time to cover study materials systematically. This reduces pressure associated with last-minute cramming. Preparing for your examinations early allows you to create a structured study plan.

You can break down study subjects into small, manageable units and allocate sufficient time for all subjects. A systematic study approach ensures you don’t get overwhelmed with excessive workloads. You also get to cover all topics comprehensively.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is also pivotal in ensuring you don’t succumb to text anxiety. Instead of being fixated on perfection, focus on achieving realistic goals and objectives. However, as you set your study goals, break them into manageable objectives. For instance, you can start by aiming at completing a specific number of chapters in a week.

While at it, remember that setbacks are a normal part of any learning process. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, develop a positive attitude and consider them opportunities for growth. Focusing on achievable objectives gives you motivation and confidence to believe in your abilities. This diminishes your anxiety, allowing you to focus on the tests ahead.

3. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques as you prepare for your final exams also alleviates anxiety. Mindfulness primarily entails being present at the moment. This helps you redirect your worries and focus on the tests ahead. Mediation, deep breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation also induce a state of calmness.

  • Deep breathing: Slows the heart rate and eases tension

  • Meditation: Helps in letting go of intrusive thoughts that can affect your studies.

  • Muscle relaxation: Teaches you how to relax muscles that promote physical relaxation.

4. Positive Self-Talk

Acknowledging anxiety is normal and can easily be controlled is crucial. You can achieve this through positive self-talk. It is a psychological strategy that revolves around reaffirming oneself. This strategy involves replacing negative thoughts with positive reaffirmations.

Understand that anxiety is simply a response and shouldn’t define your abilities and potential. Practicing self-talk boosts your self-esteem and alleviates the feeling of anxiety. Mental reframing allows you to change your perceptions and confront your fears.

5. Exercise

Including light exercises in your study schedule also helps reduce test anxiety. Exercising is known to have positive effects on mood, which indirectly alleviates anxiety. Exercising or being physically active releases endorphins, which are natural stress relievers and mood boosters. Endorphins also reduce the production of stress hormones, which are the primary cause of physical symptoms of anxiety.

While the thought of exercising can boost your mood, heading out for a jog or run distracts you from collective anxious thoughts. It gives your mind a break from worrying about the forthcoming tests. Exercising also helps you learn various coping strategies for stress, like progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Adults typically need up to eight hours of sleep to be at their best. Unfortunately, being in a constant state of anxiety about the test or other issues causes sleep disruption. Not getting enough sleep further worsens anxiety, as your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which makes the problem two-fold.

Lack of quality sleep also diminishes attention span, decision-making abilities, and short-term memory. As such, you should get quality sleep to improve your memory and concentration before the test.


Test anxiety is a normal feeling. However, it can be overwhelming enough to affect your performance. These tips can help you prepare for your final exam if you've been struggling with anxiety. If you feel overwhelmed, consider seeking professional support.