Facts and tips on exam nerves

For this short study we surveyed 1,600 respondents between the ages of 16 and 65 in the UK; representative of age and gender for the British population.

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Exam nerves can have a long-lasting effect on career and study choices, but there is support available

More than nine out of ten people in the UK have experienced exam nerves at school or university, according to a new study by LIBF in collaboration with IU Group, but most don’t seek help – despite many experiencing far-reaching consequences.

Of the 91% of respondents who said they had experienced exam nerves:

  • Over half had been prevented from pursuing their chosen career or study the subject of their choice.
  • 65% didn’t think exam nerves were taken seriously.
  • Only 18% sought help – with many citing feeling ‘awkward’ or ‘embarrassed’ as the reason why not.
Download the full factsheet: 'Facts and tips on exam nerves'

“The fear of failure, high expectations – and being worried about what others will think – are some of the main reasons why people get anxious before exams and other key life events. Unfortunately very few people seek help, despite the negative impacts.”

 Core findings

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exam-nerves-come-from-the-fear-of-future-infographic-core-findings
  • 91% of all respondents have experienced exam nerves at one time or another
    • 76% at school/university
    • 61% when applying for a job
    • 24% during vocational training
    • 4% in other situations
    • 9% have never had exam nerves
  •  Exam nerves arise primarily from the fear of failure and its consequences.
  • 65% felt their exam nerves were not taken seriously
  • 54% of respondents with exam nerves say: “Exam nerves have or had an impact on my professional career.” The fear of tests, exams, and the like, stands in the way of careers or prevents respondents from achieving the qualifications they wanted.

Quick tips to combat exam nerves

Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet for brain function.

Sleep well the night before to enhance alert ness and concentration.

Practice deep breathing to calm nerves before the exam. Visualise success, reinforcing positive outcomes.

Break down the exam into manageable sections, focusing on one at a time.

Longer term strategies to help with exam nerves

Use a learning strategy – a structured and intentional way of acquiring and retaining new information. A learning strategy enhances understanding and can help deal with exam nerves. It involves methods such as effective notetaking, active engagement with the material, setting goals, and employing mnemonic devices.

Hypnotherapy can help – by fostering relaxation and enhancing confidence through guided imagery and positive suggestions, hypnotherapy can mitigate anxiety and improve focus. Incorporating hypnotic techniques into pre-exam routines may empower students to manage stress, fostering a conducive mindset for optimal performance.

Our comments

Nadim Choudhury, Director of Careers and Employability, at LIBF says:

“The fear of failure, high expectations – and being worried about what others will think – are some of the main reasons why people get anxious before exams and other key life events.

“Unfortunately very few people seek help, despite the negative impacts. Those are not only immediate – the mental and physical toll – but also far-reaching. Nerves can affect your future life choices and options, and they need to be taken seriously.

“There is support available, and self-help measures that people can take. Preparation, structured study plans and mindfulness tools like deep breathing and hypnotherapy are powerful tools to help people overcome nerves and anxiety.

“Most universities offer help and support – and there are free resources online. Students shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it or ask for help.”

Find out more about our degrees and how we support students

Further resources