Top 10 Tips For Exam Stress

Mark Spalek Leicester HypnotherapyMark is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner and Director of Positive Blossom Limited. He runs a busy practice in Leicester, UK and is registered with the General Hypnotherapy Register (validated by the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council). He is continually driving his therapeutic techniques forward through innovation, research and dedication.

“Each of the self hypnosis hypnotherapy products on this website has been developed as a result of my many years of experience within clinical practice, where I have helped thousands of people empower themselves and gain positive changes within their lives.” Mark Spalek, June 2015.


1. Choose A Suitable Place Of Study

It is important to find a place of study that you are comfortable with, and where there are no distractions. Many people, particularly mature students with families and responsibilities, find it difficult to study at home, where demands from husband or wife and children can get in the way of academic work. The place of study you choose should be somewhere you are comfortable with and where you can work quietly with minimum distraction. Ideally this place should solely be used for study, so that you do not associate other activities with this environment. This is important because simply by entering the study room or area, signals are automatically sent to the subconscious mind that you are preparing to study and your subconscious will prepare you for the processes of concentration and memorizing your material. It is vital that you rest the mind at least 10 minutes every hour, so look to leaving your study area when you do this and spend time doing something that takes your mind away from study, for example, making a cup of tea or taking a walk in the garden. It is also useful to allocate a certain time for study and to stick to this time everyday.

2. Concentrate On The Material You Need To Learn

It is important to focus solely on the material that you need to learn in order to pass your exam. Many of us lose focus and start reading material that we may find interesting but which has no relevance to what we will be tested upon. Make a list of revision targets before each study session and stick to these. Improve your concentration through relaxing yourself before you begin to study. You can do this by taking a few slow, deep breaths, concentrating only on the ‘in breath’ and the ‘out breath’, acknowledging any thoughts that arise, thanking them and then letting them float away like balloons.

3. Avoid Putting Too Much Pressure On Yourself

This is a common problem associated with exam failure or underperformance. If you are a perfectionist you will probably put too much pressure on yourself to achieve well. This will in turn, increase the amount of anxiety and stress in your mind and body which will be detrimental to your study routines, lowering concentration and memory retention capabilities, and ultimately leading to poor, anxious ridden, performance in the exam itself. In order to maximize concentration and memory retention you need to lose the anxiety behind trying to be perfect and aim for something lower and more realistic as a target. Sometimes it is sufficient just to get through an exam, without worrying about breaking any records of achievement.

4. Get Rid Of Any Negative Emotions That Stop You From Studying

Fear of failure is a massive barrier to efficient revision and should be dealt with before starting any successful study regime. A good way to achieve this is to take a few deep breaths and picture a white cloud somewhere in the distance. Spend a few minutes filling the cloud with any negative thoughts you may have about learning new material or fears about failure, until the cloud is black with all negative thoughts filling it. Next picture a bright sun behind the cloud, gradually growing larger until the black cloud disappears. The sun represents your confident, positive self and shows you that you are now ready to study.

5. Learn To Focus The Mind Through Breathing

Relax before each session by taking slow deep breaths, focusing on the ‘in breath’ and ‘out breath’ as you do so. Acknowledge any thoughts that arise, thank them and then picture them floating away like balloons. Doing this exercise a few minutes before starting to study should focus the mind on the task ahead, while also relaxing the body. Focus on relaxing all your muscles as you continue with the breathing exercise.

6. Sleep On It

How many of us have stayed up all night, cramming before an exam, only to find that our recall becomes muddled and inconsistent when we start the actual examination? A little revision often is much better than cramming. Also it is recommended that you get a good night’s sleep after revising, and before the exam the next day. This is because it takes time for your brain to organize all the information you need to know correctly and to make the correct associations between this information and any imagery, for example, that you may have used in order to boost your memory retention. View your mind as containing a library of information at your fingertips – if you cram information you don’t allow the library assistant in your mind enough time to place each bit of information on the correct shelf in the correct aisle.

7. Let Go Of Stress And Tension Before Your Exam

You can take the above breathing exercises with you as you enter the examination room, focusing on taking deep, refreshing breaths of air as you sit down in front of the desk. In this way you prepare yourself for maximum performance, just like a sprinter gathers him/herself before exploding off the blocks.

8. Breathe Deeply And Relax Your Muscles

Once again, a reference to the importance of breathing. Because you have associated slow, deep breathing with relaxing your muscles (see Tip 5 above), your muscles should automatically relax as soon as you take in a deep breath. Focus lovingly on any muscle groups that are tense and picture them smooth and relaxed. Also, if you have any butterflies, focus lovingly on the muscles of your stomach, making them loose and relaxed and letting go of your butterflies.

9. Read Through Each Question Before You Begin

Don’t start writing straight away. Read through each question before you begin the exam. The questions may not make any sense to you but don’t worry – trust in your subconscious to make available to you the correct and appropriate information for each answer. Once you have read through all the questions, you are ready to begin writing the answers down.

10. Let Your Knowledge Flow Out Of You

Don’t try too hard to access the information from the library in your brain. It will flow out of you naturally as you begin to write your first answer. Once this flow of knowledge dries up, move onto the next question and once more allow the flow of information to surface. Once you have gone through all the questions, check your answers and relax.

Mark Spalek, Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner and Brief Solution Focussed Therapist – GHR (reg), Dip. Hyp, Dip. NLP, GQHP, MSc, BSc, PGCE.