Exam Anxiety
   
   
  

Exams getting to you?

Can't sleep?

Can’t concentrate?

Starting to panic?

Sitting for hours in the library but not taking much in?

We can help.

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Just when it really matters, and you want to do your best, it all starts to go wrong. You sit in front of your computer and your mind goes blank. You decide just to check your email before you start working. Or your Facebook page. Before you know it, a couple of hours have passed and it’s time for a little snack. You try again. This time you start to feel sleepy. Maybe a short doze might help. Now several hours have passed and you start to get really worried about how much you have to do and how little time to do it in. You keep thinking about what will happen if you can’t get it all done. You won’t do well. Others will think badly of you. Before you know it you’ve really got yourself into a state of anxiety. When you finally get to bed at night after a few more futile attempts to concentrate, you can’t get off to sleep. Instead you lie there wide awake – worrying. The next day, the same thing happens again.

Why do exams make people feel so bad?

An exam is a way of assessing knowledge, understanding and skill in a particular subject. It is an attempt to standardise and measure ability in this area. What it can’t be is an absolute judgement on someone’s personal worth. But it can feel like that, especially if you value your own worth solely by your achievements.

So if you think:

  • I’m going to fail,  or
  • I’m not going to do as well as I should

You might also think:

  • I’ll never get a good job
  • Other people will think I am lazy or stupid
  • My family will think badly of me

Then it won’t be surprising if you start to feel anxious.

 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is our natural response to threat or sense of emergency.

When we feel under threat, our bodies go into a ‘fight or flight’ response. We become prepared to fight or to run away. The main bodily change is the release of adrenaline and cortisol which gives us the surge of energy to act.

 

What happens when there is too much anxiety?

At times of high anxiety you may experience problems with sleep, short and long-term memory, the capacity to learn, concentrate and focus. Other changes you might notice are:

  • Increased muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increase in alertness to the slightest touch or sound
 

Does anxiety have any good points?

A moderate amount of anxiety may not be a bad thing. It can sharpen concentration and performance and help to create the extra energy and focus to keep studying, when you might prefer to be doing something else.

But - too much anxiety can be overwhelming and stop you from being able to study and get on with life in a satisfying way.

 

Further information about the effects of anxiety and what you can do about it.

University Counselling Service

The Orchards
The University of Nottingham, University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD


telephone: +44 (0)115 951 3695
email: counselling.service@nottingham.ac.uk