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How to beat test anxiety nerves

Girl on bed throwing books in the air

Tests of any kind can be very nerve wracking.


Right about now many GCSE and A Level students might be starting to feel a little nervous about their upcoming exams, which is perfectly normal. Here are a few helpful tips to help them beat test anxiety nerves:

Prepare students for a test environment

Moderate anxiety can actually help students perform better in exams but extreme levels of stress can be debilitating and affect the working memory. That’s not what you want when the difference between grade boundaries is a few marks! One great way to help students mentally prepare for a test is for them to start working in test conditions. Ask them to sit past papers like they will in the exam hall. If you can, set everything up in another quiet, organised room and time their practice exam. Even better, see if their class teacher will take them round the exam hall beforehand. This way students will know where they are sitting in advance and won’t worry about finding their seat.

Encouragement is key

This is a no brainer but ensure you are positively encouraging students throughout their revision and exam period. It can be an extremely stressful time for students and their families because everyone is hoping it all goes according to plan. However, letting your worries and frustrations show through can hinder a student’s progress. Many students who suffer from severe anxiety are also prone to procrastination because they literally feel ‘paralysed with fear’. So gentle reminders about how well they are doing will do wonders.

Develop students memory skills

Anxiety can affect our working memories and being in an unnatural setting like an exam hall may not help. So whilst students are on study leave help them work through various memory aids to ensure they are taking in what is in front of them. Hopefully by the time they come to the exam the knowledge they have worked hard to retain will just flow out onto the page. Here are some ideas you can try with your child:

  • Ask them to read out loud instead of to themselves.
  • Ask them to teach you what they have just learnt.
  • Discuss a topic they have just learnt over a 20 minute walk.
  • Encourage them to draw and label diagrams (for example, of the human heart).
  • Meditate with them for 10 minutes each morning before they start studying.

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