You’ve been revising hard for weeks, maybe even months. You’ve got an exam grade in mind that you would be ECSTATIC to achieve, but there’s a little voice in the back of your head that’s wondering if you’ll be able to get through the exam.

Exam’s are STRESSFUL. If you walk in with the wrong mindset, get flustered and panicked and start worrying about what everyone else is doing you might not achieve the grades you are capable of.

In this blog post you’ll discover…

  • Why the few hours BEFORE your exam could make or break your results
  • Why it’s important to block out everyone else in the exam hall
  • 4 ways you can defeat panic if it strikes during your exam
  • How to accept and not be afraid of failure. 


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Get your head in the game

The hours before your exam are vital to get you in the right frame of mind to succeed.


Cramming CAN be super effective as I’ve definitely answered exam questions solely by the revision I did two days before the exam. BUT…cramming on the day of your exam will not serve you. It’s very unlikely you’ll learn anything else that close to the exam and you’re very likely to panic yourself. If you test yourself with flashcards at the exam centre and you don’t get them all correct you might set off a chain reaction of panic and feelings of “I can’t do this”, and “I don’t know anything”.

Leave the revision notes at home.

Do everything you can to get to your exam centre early. Arriving late to your exam should never happen (unless a lion breaks out of the local zoo or Ryan Reynolds asks you to elope with him RIGHT NOW). Plan your journey and build in a big buffer to allow for traffic.

Studies show how aerobic exercise can boost our brain power, helping us process information quicker and stay focused. I’d recommend going for a 15-20 minute walk before your exam. You should then experience these brain-boosting benefits in your exam. Going for a walk can also help you relax so you go into the exam feeling calm rather than numb with fear.

If you don’t want to go for a walk I’d recommend finding a quiet corner and sitting by yourself before you go into the exam hall. You could put headphones in and listen to music or an audiobook that makes you happy.

If you’re really suffering with nerves, try to focus on your breathing. Take some slow deep breaths and visualise passing your exams. Remind yourself you just need to get through the next few hours and think about a treat you can reward yourself with later once you’re done.

Focus on you

Taking exams is terrifying. The pressure increases even more if you let what those around you are doing affect you. If you’ve taken exams before you may have experienced this.

You’ve turned over the paper and spent a few minutes reading it and getting to grips with what you have to do.

You’re still working out how to answer the first question but the woman next to you catches your eye and you see she’s already written half a page and is frantically scribbling more. You immediately feel like a failure and a bit of a fraud.

Or you’re trying your hardest to get your thoughts out and down on paper when you look round and see the guy next to you has already filled one answer book and is on to another!

It can be difficult to focus if you worry about what everyone else is doing. Everyone has different approaches to exams so try your hardest to block out those around you. Your exam needs and deserves your full attention.

Believe in your process as this is YOUR journey. Worrying about what everyone else is doing won’t gain you more marks. In fact, you may lose some if you freeze, panicking that everyone else is doing better than you. Spend your energy wisely and do the best you can. Focus on you.

How to overcome panic in the exam

It’s completely normal to feel panicked during an exam. Sometimes your mind will go blank or you’ll look at a question and have no idea how to tackle it. Here’s 4 ways you can overcome a sudden rush of panic during your exam.

1. Breathe

It seems silly that something as simple as breathing could have such a big impact. But, controlled breathing can calm you down and give you the clarity you need to continue. If you’re feeling panicked in the exam, stop for a minute or so and do this breathing exercise. Breathe in through your nose for four counts. Then hold your breath for seven counts. Then breathe out through your mouth for eight counts. Do this two or three times and you should feel calm enough to continue.

2. Take breaks

It probably won’t feel like you have time to stop in your exam – even for a second. But if you’re scribbling every second you might get halfway through and reach burnout. Instead, pace yourself by taking breaks. Every few questions, stop for 20 seconds, move your fingers and stretch your wrists, have a drink and take some deep breaths. Then get back to it. Short breaks are proven to help you maintain focus over a long period of time.

3. Brain dump

If your mind goes blank – don’t panic! Not knowing what to write doesn’t mean you don’t know anything. Sometimes you just need to coax your learning out. Take some deep breaths then brain dump everything you know about the question topic. Write down everything you can remember that’s related. Hopefully, as you write down what you DO know, some relevant points will jump out at you. Start your answer with those and more details and points should follow.

4. Move on

If you get stuck on a question it’s easy to become panicked. If you’ve tried brain dumping or the question is only worth a few marks, move on. Mark it somehow then come back to it later. There’s no point wasting time being stuck and not writing anything down. Move onto a question you can answer which should reduce the panic. Make time to come back at the end and have another go when you’re feeling a little calmer.

Failure isn’t final

No one wants to fail an exam. I know so many of your work your butt off to do well in your studies. You work hard to get grades you can be proud of. But failures happen. You might have gotten unlucky with the exam paper, or your revision might have been ineffective. You may have misread the instructions, or you may have been feeling crap or had personal stuff going on that affected your focus.

It’s important to remember that failure doesn’t have to be final. We will all experience failure at some point in our lives but the only true failure is giving up instead of picking yourself up to try again.

Failure feels like a slap in the face. It can take the wind right out of you and make you feel desperate, panicked and like you’re just not good enough so should probably give up.

I thought I was a failure for doing badly in my A Levels. I thought I was a failure for not going to university straight from school. I thought I was a failure when I didn’t get the exam results I wanted when I finally did go back to university. But none of these were the end of my story. I decided to learn from failure and realise more opportunities would come to me if I kept working hard.

I have many friends who didn’t get into their dream university or subject or who graduated with a lower degree classification than they wanted. What may look like a failure can actually just be a pivot to a situation that’s just as good or even better.

So as you go into your exams I want you to remember that one bad exam result will not ruin your life. When you’re in the thick of something it can feel like your entire life hinges on the outcome. But, a challenge, setback or failure is not the end of the story. We don’t get one shot at success in life. There are opportunities everywhere.

Learning is a journey and the journey to anywhere worthwhile is difficult, winding and full of potholes.

"All roads that lead to success have to pass through hard work boulevard at some point."

Walk into the exam and do the best you can. That’s the most you can do and, regardless of your results, if you do your best you can walk out of that exam hall with your head held high.


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

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