Exam stress and pressure

If you’re feeling stressed about taking exams, you aren’t alone. Get advice from us and other young people.

Worrying about exams

Exam stress can start when you feel you can't cope with revision, or feel pressure from your school or family. You might worry you’re going to fail or you won't get the grades you need for the course or job you want, but we've got advice and tips on coping.

It can seem scary to talk about stress or anxiety. You might feel like nobody else is feeling this way. But bottling up stress and trying to deal with it on your own can often make the stress worse. So it can really help to talk.

Revision vs. Life with Eve Bennett

Tips for coping with stress:

  • write down your worries - then throw the paper away or give it to someone you trust 
  • use the Art box to draw a picture of how you want to feel or what you want to happen
  • go for a walk or do some exercise
  • listen to calming music
  • play a game to take your mind off your worries and stress for a bit
  • remember that everyone's different - try not to compare yourself to your friends.

Exam results and expectations

When we feel anxious, we often give ourselves negative messages like: ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m useless’ and ‘I’m going to fail’.

It can be difficult but try to replace these with positive thoughts such as: ‘this is just anxiety, it can’t harm me’ and, ‘relax, concentrate - it's going to be okay’.

Picturing how you'd like things to go can help you feel more positive. Try to imagine yourself turning up to an exam feeling confident and relaxed. You turn over your paper, write down what you do know and come away knowing you tried your best on the day.

It can sometimes feel like your whole future depends on what grades you get. There can be a lot of pressure on young people to do well in exams which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

You might have been predicted certain grades or put into a higher set, and feel if you don’t get the grade you’ll let your teachers or parents down.

Remember, exams are important – but they’re not the only way to a successful future. Lots of people achieve success in life without doing well in school exams.

Exams and mental health

Watch: Social pressures at exam time

Beat exam stress

Remember, if you feel that you can’t cope with the pressure or are feeling stressed, find someone to talk to.

Don’t bottle it up! Try talking to:

Problems at home?

If your family are arguing or going through a tough time, it can make finding time to revise and concentrate even more difficult. Things affecting your concentration could include:

If you feel any of these problems are affecting your school work or studying, it's important to tell someone how you feel. This could be a teacher or a friend.

In some serious situations, your school might be able to make exceptions, such as marking your exam papers based on your work throughout the year, but your teacher can discuss this with you. You can always talk to a Childline counsellor. They're there to listen to you and to support you.

the awkward moment
when you forget

Get advice from other young people on the study help message boards

What you can do

Talking to someone you trust like a friend, teacher or family member could help. They might not be aware of how their attitude towards your exams is putting pressure on you.

Talking about how you're feeling can reduce the pressure and help you to feel more in control. Take a look at the study help message boards to get advice from other young people who may be in the same situation.