How to Reduce Exam Stress and Study Like a Pro!

Physics Wallah Academic Expert
August 25, 2023

How to Reduce Exam Stress: Exams are an inevitable part of academic life. While some students take exams in their stride, others experience immense stress and anxiety before and during exam time. This heightened anxiety during exams is known as exam stress. Though a little stress can help you stay focused, excessive exam stress can negatively impact your preparation and performance. Hence, it becomes vital to manage exam stress effectively. This article discusses various strategies and techniques to help you with some ways to reduce stress during exams.

Table of Content:

  • Introduction
  • Understanding Exam Stress
  • Ways to Reduce Exam Stress
  • How to Reduce Stress During Exams by Changing your Lifestyle
  • On the Exam Day
  • Post-Exam De-stressing
  • Seeking Help from Educators
  • Conclusion
  • FAQ

Understanding Exam Stress

Exam stress refers to excessive feelings of worry, nervousness, and tension before and during an exam. It is the body's reaction to the demands and pressures of the exam. Exam stress is very common among students of all age groups. In fact, more than 20% of students suffer from test anxiety, which leads to poor performance in exams.

There can be various causes of exam stress:

  • Fear of failure and disappointing self/parents
  • Pressure to succeed and secure good marks
  • Uncertainty about questions and one's preparation
  • Comparing self with peers
  • Negative thinking and lack of confidence

Prolonged exam stress can manifest in both physical and psychological ways:

  • Headache, nausea, sleep issues
  • Poor concentration, feeling blank
  • Rapid heartbeat, sweating
  • Negative self-talk, fear of humiliation

Thus, unmanaged exam stress not only affects your mental health but also reduces your ability to retrieve and apply knowledge during the exam. This impacts your scores adversely. Therefore, it is critical to learn stress management strategies.

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Ways to Reduce Exam Stress

Thorough preparation is crucial for minimizing exam stress. Here are some useful preparation strategies:

  • Make a study plan: Create a realistic weekly or monthly study plan well in advance. Outline topics to cover each day and stick to the schedule. This ensures systematic preparation and avoids last-minute panicking.

  • Study actively: Do not just passively read material. Use active learning techniques like summarizing key points, making visual aids, and teaching concepts to others. Active studying promotes better retention and confidence.

  • Attempt practice questions: Regularly solve sample questions from workbooks or previous years' papers. This simulates exam conditions, improving speed, accuracy, and comfort with different question types.

  • Analyze mistakes: Note down errors made in practice tests. Identify weak areas and knowledge gaps. Dedicate more time to improve those topics or skills. Learning from errors is key.

  • Understand exam format: Analyze the exam pattern, question types, marking scheme, time limit, etc. Tailor preparation accordingly through mock tests mimicking the actual exam. This prevents shock on the final exam day.

  • Strengthen weak areas: After practice tests, single out concepts not well understood or question types where you scored low. Spend extra time revising those topics or question formats to reinforce learning.

  • Learn smart: Use study techniques like mnemonics, diagrams, recitation, or teaching concepts to others. These aid better memorization compared to just reading. Make brief revision notes or flashcards.

  • Take breaks: While studying, long hours are needed, take regular short breaks to relax the mind. Stretching, snacking, chatting, or listening to music during breaks rejuvenates you to study more efficiently.

  • Form study groups: Having a trusted peer group for discussion, testing each other's knowledge, and exchanging exam tips can be very valuable. Group studying adds accountability and motivation.

With thorough, smart preparation using the above tips for students are some ways to reduce exam stress. It boosts confidence to face exams without fear.

How to Reduce Stress During Exams by Changing your Lifestyle

In addition to academic preparation, adopting a healthy lifestyle is key to managing stress during exam times. Some useful lifestyle tips include:

  • Exercise regularly: Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise like aerobics, running, swimming, or strength training most days. Physical activity releases feel-good hormones and relaxes the mind.

  • Eat a balanced diet: Include nourishing foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, omega-3-rich fish, and whole grains in your meals. Stay hydrated. Nutritious eating boosts energy levels and brain function.

  • Get enough sleep: Maintain a consistent sleep routine. Retiring to bed and waking up at the same time daily ensures you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep needed to concentrate well and manage stress.

  • Take relaxation breaks: Do activities like deep breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation, or listening to music for 10-15 mins daily. This triggers the relaxation response to reduce anxiety.

  • Adopt positive self-talk: Challenge negative thoughts and affirm positive statements like "I have prepared thoroughly. I will stay calm during the exam." This builds confidence and resilience.

  • Discuss feelings with friends: Sharing worries or seeking exam tips from close friends provides emotional support. Peer discussion alleviates loneliness and validates feelings.

  • Limit caffeine intake: Avoid excess coffee, energy drinks, and caffeinated sodas, as they can increase nervousness and jitteriness and disrupt sleep. Stay hydrated with water, juices, and smoothies.

  • Do leisure activities: Make time for hobbies like reading, painting, gardening, watching movies or meeting friends. This provides a break from exam stress.

  • Practice mindfulness: Focus on the present moment without judgment through mindful breathing, observing thoughts, or sensing awareness. This reduces anxiety and centers your mind.

With self-care through nourishing lifestyle habits, students can better manage exam worry and excel in academics. Seek counseling assistance if exam stress feels.

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On the Exam Day:

The exam day itself can provoke anxiety, but using certain strategies can help lower stress levels:

  • Reach the exam venue early to avoid rushing. Use waiting time to do a final quick revision.

  • Have a light, filling breakfast. Avoid heavy meals that may make you drowsy. Stay hydrated during the exam.

  • Do deep breathing, meditation, or listen to calm music before the exam to relax. Visualize yourself succeeding.

  • Read instructions carefully. Underline keywords like maximum marks, compulsory questions, etc., to avoid errors.

  • Quickly scan the entire paper first. Make a time plan allowing more minutes for high-mark questions.

  • Begin with the easiest questions to build confidence and momentum. Move to tougher ones later.

  • When feeling anxious during the exam, take a few deep breaths. Break overwhelming questions into smaller parts.

  • Avoid negative self-talk. Counter unhelpful thoughts with positive affirmations like "I know this, I can do it."

  • If drawing a blank, skip the question and revisit it later with a fresh mind. Mark such questions for review.

  • Check work before submitting the paper. Review calculations, rough work and ensure all questions were attempted.

  • Do not overanalyze during the exam. First-answer choices are often correct. Change the answer only if you are very sure.

  • Stay focused on your paper till the end. Do not worry about others completing early or leaving.

With smart exam-day strategies and a positive mindset, students can conquer exam anxiety and maximize performance. Seeking counselor guidance to manage disabling exam fear is recommended.

Post-Exam De-stressing

After exams conclude, it is important to actively de-stress and rejuvenate the mind and body:

  • Take time off - With exams done, take a break from studies for a few days. Pursue hobbies, meet friends, or go on a vacation to unwind.

  • Celebrate - Plan a relaxing celebration treat like dinner out, movie night, or picnic with friends and family. Look back at the challenges overcome.

  • Vent feelings - Open up about exam experience and lingering worries with trusted mentors or friends. Verbal venting provides emotional relief.

  • Detach from results - Rather than brood over perceived mistakes or grade expectations, focus on upcoming goals. Remind yourself results must remain the same.

  • Have closure - Reflect on learning about strengths and weaknesses from the exam experience. Note areas needing improvement to upgrade future strategy. This provides a sense of closure.

  • Be proud - Give yourself credit for persevering through an exam despite anxiety. Make a note of skills and knowledge gained in the process.

  • Reward yourself - Plan personal rewards like relaxing spa sessions, gadget shopping, or a weekend getaway. Treats motivate and uplift mood.

  • Reset sleep routine - With exams over, avoid sleeping late or waking up very late. Gradually revert to a normal sleep schedule.

  • Resume exercise - Get back to regular physical activity to use up mental tension and re-energize.

  • Maintain a healthy diet - Continue nourishing meals with lots of water, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein for physical and mental recovery.

With self-care and stress management after exams, students can bounce back refreshed to face new academic challenges ahead. Seeking counseling for persistent anxiety post-exams may be needed.

Seeking Help from Educators

If students feel overwhelmed by exam stress despite their best efforts, seeking assistance from trusted educators like teachers, tutors, or mentors can be very beneficial:

  • Get exam tips – Educators can provide specific exam preparation and writing tips based on their extensive experience and knowledge of exam formats.

  • Identify weak areas – Teachers can review your classwork and assignments and practice test performance to pinpoint areas needing strengthening through focused study.

  • Clear concepts – Approach subject teachers to clear doubts regarding poorly understood concepts. Their guidance helps reinforce learning.

  • Time management – Seek tips from tutors on managing time during study and actual exams based on exam duration and question format.

  • Stress management - Counselors can teach relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and positive self-talk to better handle exam anxiety.

  • Study strategies – Mentors can suggest effective study methods like active recall, interleaving, and overlearning to retain information better and build confidence.

  • Motivational advice – Experienced educators can provide inspiring advice to stay motivated through the exam preparation phase and overcome fear or negativity.

  • Review responses – Tutors can help identify patterns in wrong answer choices and coach students to avoid repeating mistakes and improve reasoning skills.

  • Monitor progress - Teachers can regularly review your learning progress and suggest course corrections needed, such as spending more time on particular topics.

  • Parent communication – With the student's consent, counselors can update parents regarding anxiety issues and jointly design an exam support plan.

By tapping into the experience of caring educators, students can better manage exam stress and excel academically. If extreme anxiety persists after educators' advice, counseling should be sought.


Exam stress is commonly experienced by students worldwide. While mild levels can improve alertness, excessive stress can hamper performance and well-being. The question how to reduce exam stress requires healthy lifestyles, thorough preparation, effective time management, and seeking help when required. Exam stress is surmountable, provided you take proactive steps. 

Consistently working on stress management strategies will help you perform up to your potential during exams in a stress-free manner. To conclude, do not let exam stress overpower you. Believe in your abilities and keep stress under control with the tips discussed. You can ace your exams with ease!

Exam Stress: FAQs

What are some physical symptoms of exam stress?

Exam stress can cause headache, nausea, sleep problems, rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc.

How can I build confidence before exams?

Thorough preparation, practicing sample questions, and adopting positive self-talk can help build confidence.

What should I do the night before an exam?

Have an early dinner, finish preparations, and get a full night's rest before the exam.

How can I relax and focus during the exam?

Take deep breaths, avoid negative thoughts, skip difficult questions initially and return to them later.

When should I seek help for exam stress?

If exam stress persists despite your best efforts, seek assistance from teachers, counselors, or mental health professionals.

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