Priory Post 141 – Examinations

Posted: 27th August 2015


From the Counsellor’s Chair

Mrs R Good, the School Counsellor, gives some advice on how to deal with examinations:

‘Normal levels of stress can help you work, think faster and more effectively, and improve your performance.  It’s normal to be anxious around exam times.  If your anxiety becomes overwhelming your performance can be adversely affected, so becoming aware of what causes your anxiety will help to reduce the stress.

In previous articles I looked at reducing exam stress by setting aside sufficient time for revision, being organised and practising relaxation techniques.  This article centres on anxiety the night before and during an exam.


The night before:

  • Try to use humour to beat negative thoughts, watch a good DVD, read a magazine, remember your favourite jokes.
  • Prepare for the next day and don’t leave it to the last few minutes before you leave the house. Get pens and pencils ready.  Does your calculator need a new battery?  Are your clothes prepared?
  • Avoid working too close to the exam such as the night before or on the morning before. Go for a walk, have a bath, or talk to someone instead.
  • Eat something even if you have those butterflies in the stomach feeling. Bread, crackers and cereals are good.   Avoid rich and spicy food.  Some people find dairy products unsettling.
  • Make sure you know the time and place of your exam. Plan your journey taking into account any traffic delays.  Don’t arrive too early or late.
  • 3

During the exam:

  • Walk in slowly. Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Have you been to the bathroom?  Check you’re not too hot or too cold.  Adjust your clothing.  Make sure your hair is not impeding your vision.  Lower and relax your shoulders.  Take a few deep, slow breaths.
  • Take your time to read the questions and the instructions carefully. Read these twice to ensure you have a good grasp of what is required.
  • If there are choices then pick the questions that relate well to your revision. Don’t rush; taking adequate time at this stage will pay off.  If you can’t decide which questions to answer, pick the questions you can answer and come back to the rest.  Doing ‘easy’ questions first can boost your confidence; tackling more difficult ones whilst you are still alert may be best for you.
  • Plan your answer. A plan with a few rough notes will help you to mobilise your thoughts.  Try and ignore everyone else at this stage.
  • Manage your time so you have enough time for your last question.
  • Avoid perfectionism. It’s great to check punctuation and spelling but in many subjects A1 prose is not expected.
  • If your anxiety feels like taking over, stop, put down your pen, relax. Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes.  Shake your arms, move your head from side to side to relieve tension, perhaps place your head on the desk.  Say a positive affirmation to yourself.  Imagine you are somewhere relaxing and feel happy and content.
  • If you feel unwell, do attract the attention of the invigilator. Some water or some fresh air is maybe what you need.


It’s over.  The exam has finished.  The papers have been collected!’


Categories: Priory Post Senior