How To Stay Calm Before An Exam

After you have revised as much as you can, or even if you haven’t, how can you stay calm before and during ‘the big exam’. Cat Williams, author of Stay Calm and Content shares her tips.

What are you afraid of?

The key to staying calm in an exam is to keep your fear in perspective. An exam can be a threat to our self-esteem. What if we don’t do well? How will we feel about ourselves? What will other people say? What will the short or long term consequences be for our future?

These worries are not helpful in terms of our ability to focus on the exam ahead, so we must keep them in perspective. Those people who ‘take exams in their stride’ are the ones who appear not to care, whether they actually do or not; we can learn from their thoughts and behaviour.

– Take slow, deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing in warm, calming air, and breathing out self-doubt.
– Use any ‘good luck charms’ which might help you to feel confident and calmer
– Dress in a way which helps you to feel smart, confident and good about yourself.
– If appropriate, use equipment which you like and are confident using.
– ‘Treat’ yourself before the exam, perhaps a nicer breakfast or lunch than usual, or something else which will help you to feel good.

Repeat these phrases to yourself as often as necessary, until you feel calm:

– “I have done my best, even if I feel I could have revised more, feeling this way is normal”
– “I will be okay, whatever happens, this exam will not be the only defining point in my life, I can only do my best and accept the result”
– “I am no worse, or better, than anyone else, whatever my/or their ability is, I do not need to be defined simply by how I successful I am in an exam, there is more to me than that”.
– “I will do well, I can do this, I can remain calm and confident”.

If you feel panicky during an exam then remember that fear is stimulating your ‘fight or flight’ response and causing you to feel this way. You can control your fear by repeating the breathing techniques and phrases above until you feel calmer.

Cat Williams is author of Stay Calm and Content, available on Amazon (link to

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