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Staying calm before the test

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety from time to time, especially around exams. A little bit of stress can be positive, as it can help motivate us to take action and get things done. However, too much stress can get in the way and can affect our overall performance, memory and concentration.

The following are a few strategies that can help you stay calm before you have to take a test.

Get a good night’s sleep

  • Staying up late to study may harm your success. Your brain needs sleep in order for it to function properly and retain information better.
  • When you are sleeping, your body and mind are doing repair work.
  • Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep before a test or exam.

Eat healthy food

  • Avoid things that might upset your stomach.
  • Protein can help you feel full for longer while you are writing. Also be sure to stay hydrated.
  • Too much caffeine can contribute to poor sleep quality and can lead to the feeling of crashing; use in moderation.

Arrive early to the exam or prepare in advance to write online exams

  • If you are writing your exam in person, arrive early, find a quiet spot, and focus on relaxing. 
  • If you are writing online, log on early and be ready to write when the time starts. Have everything you need around you and ready to go so you aren't disrupted during the test. If you need certain software to write the test, make sure it is downloaded and ready to go. Close out of all unnecessary windows and consider using an ethernet cable or a hotspot if your internet is unreliable.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious, take some deep breaths and consider using a grounding exercise to calm your nerves

  • The five, four, three, two, one grounding activity can be a helpful exercise to practice: 
    • First, acknowledge five things you see around you. 
    • Second, acknowledge four things you can touch around you.
    • Third, acknowledge three things you hear. 
    • Fourth, acknowledge two things you can smell.
    • Finally, acknowledge one thing you can taste. 


Derrington, Kate, Cristy Bartlett, and Anita Frederiks. (20 January 2021). Preparing for Exams. In N. Anderson and W. Hargreaves (Eds.), Academic Success. University of Southern Queensland. Accessed at: