Why Do I Feel Anxious In Exams?

Exam season is nearly upon us and for many young people this is a time of increased stress and anxiety. It can be really helpful to understand more about anxiety. Then you can learn ways in which to calm it so that you’re fully prepared for when your exams begin.

Some young people (and adults!) find that when they are studying in lessons they are absolutely fine but the second they enter the exam hall their anxiety heightens and their mind goes blank. So why does this happen?

Anxiety occurs when your body registers a situation as potentially life threatening or dangerous. It prepares us to fight, flight or freeze. This was incredibly useful when we were cavemen who may encounter bears! But whilst we still need to be alerted to dangerous situations today in order to keep ourselves safe, our minds aren’t as helpful or as good at it as they could be.

When you enter the exam hall your brain registers that you feel nervous and perhaps a little afraid. As it often doesn’t know the difference between a bear and an exam it simply perceives the situation as life threatening. Your body responds to the signals from your brain and you may feel things such as your heart beat quickening, breathlessness and butterflies in your stomach. The part of your brain responsible for problem solving, language and reasoning can also go ‘off line’. Really helpful in an exam situation!

The good news is that understanding why you feel anxious in a exam situation is the first step towards being able to learn how to remain calm and in control, enabling the thinking part of your brain to fully cooperate with what you’re trying to achieve!