It’s very normal to experience anxiety while revising for exams and sitting papers. But help is at hand. There are many resources, events and people available to help you stress less and manage your revision or any exam anxiety you may have.
The best way to increase confidence and reduce anxiety is to be well prepared, so start your revision in good time. Many tutors will build revision into your course but you will also need to make your own plans to ensure you have covered all the topics you think you need to know.
Exam Preparation Sessions
These 60 minute workshops are led by qualified Study Skills tutors and are designed to provide you with advice and guidance about planning your revision and managing your time in exams. Sessions are available in Hilary and Trinity Term, bookable from the Mock exam webpage.
Study skills and training
A range of resources and videos are available on the Study skills and training webpage. Topics include avoiding plagiarism, managing your time, reading, note taking, referencing and revision.
Health and welfare resources
If you’re looking for self-help resources to help you better manage your mental health, visit the Counselling self-help pages.
Take 5 is a free website resource for students who are feeling worried about their exams to address feelings of exam panic, anxiety, stress and concern.
Use the material you have learned to create essay plans, write answers to single questions from past papers and take part in college collections and mock exams.
Obtaining feedback from tutors and reading past examiners reports can also be helpful methods to aid your revision.
Mock exams and exam orientation
Familiarise yourself with exam venues, regulations and get the opportunity to ask questions at a mock exam or orientation session. The events take place in Hilary and Trinity term, and are held at the main exam venues in Oxford - the Examination Schools and Ewert House.
Both sessions also offer the opportunity to trial any alternative arrangements that might have been approved for your exams and to ask questions about arrangements in place.
Dates and booking details are all available on the Mock exams page.
The practice exams are usually organised termly for undergraduate students. Speak to your College Office to find out when collections are taking place in your college or if you have alternative arrangements.
Anxiety is normal and for many of us, inevitable at examination time. It can be experienced as a range of feelings from uneasiness to severe panic and it is usually experienced in three ways:
Emotionally: with feelings of fear and nervousness
Physically: dry mouth, feeling sick or a churning stomach, heart beating faster than usual, sweating, shaking, wanting to go to the lavatory all the time, breathing difficulties
Cognitively: frightening thoughts, such as "I'm going to fail / make a fool of myself " and so on.
At worst, anxiety and the fear of panic attacks can affect our life and behaviour in all kinds of ways. We may be unable to work or sleep, find ourselves avoiding people or places, or trying to cope by overindulging. Think about whether there are any practical solutions you could adopt to reduce your anxiety. These could include prioritising your time, making a realistic plan of action; finding out information or getting feedback if you feel confused or unsure about something; trying to live a "balanced" life, spending time on different aspects of your life, eating well, sleeping, exercising, or socialising as well as working.
Overcoming panic and a host of other life skills workshops designed to support studies at Oxford are available through the Counselling Service. Dates and booking details are available on the Counselling workshops page.
Exam anxiety workshops
These workshops are available to attend at the Examination Schools in Hilary and Trinity terms. Dates and booking details are available on the Mock exams page.
Gardens, libraries and museums
Take time out from the pressures of revision and exams and enjoy some relaxing activities in the beautiful surroundings of Oxford University’s gardens, libraries and museums. From late April to the end of May, you’ll find a programme of free activities to help you unwind during exam season. Dedicated to students, these morning and evening activities are ideal opportunities to relax and learn new skills in inspiring surroundings - from yoga in the Weston Library to sketching in the Museum of Natural History. Spaces are limited, so book ahead to guarantee your place.
- The Conversation: How to overcome exam anxiety
- “Managing Test Anxiety” - Brown University
- Overcoming Test Anxiety (with body relaxation techniques) - Queen's University
Look after yourself. Revision is hard work so make sure you eat and sleep well and take time off to relax, see friends and exercise. This will make you more productive. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol and try not to stay up all night revising. You will perform much better after a good night's sleep.
The Counselling Service offer many different types of support including individual counselling, workshops, peer support, group counselling and a range of supportive resources such as podcasts on insomnia and anxiety.
If you are feeling nervous or anxious about things in your life, talking to a close friend, a family member or a tutor or supervisor may be helpful.
Most colleges have chaplains, college nurses, welfare officers or academic advisors willing to listen and provide support. Visit our health and welfare page for information on the services available.
Student Advice is an independent advice and information service exclusively available to Oxford University Students. You can browse their Student Help database of information or book an appointment to speak personally with an advisor via the Student Advice website.