Learn About Ailments | Exam Nerves

Exam Nerves

Exam nerves are caused by an anxiety to perform well under examination. Nerves are a short-lived natural reaction to pressure and a sign of wanting to do well. Exam nerves can have a positive effect and serve to channel energy. Negative reaction to exam nerves can cause anxieties to spiral out of control leading to stress.
Exam Nerves

In This Article
Watch coping with exams video Causes of exam nerves
Symptoms of exam nerves Diagnosis of exam nerves
Related terms


Exam nerves may be better described as exam stress. The stress experienced can be either positive or negative depending on how the individual controls it. For many people, an exam can trigger extreme stress due to the pressure placed by parents, an educational institution or even the individual to perform well.

Exam stress can reduce performance ability with the outcome being results that are lower than they should be. Exam stress can be caused by:
  • Worry about past exam performance
  • Worrying about how others are performing
  • Dwelling on the consequences of failure
  • Poor preparation for the exam
For some people, exam stress is a positive force that can motivate during preparation and stimulate during the exam itself.

Exam nerves can trigger a number of physical and psychological symptoms. During the examination period, physical symptoms may include:
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Digestion problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleeping difficulty
Mental symptoms of exam nerves can include:
  • Nervousness
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Short-term memory loss (mental blocking)

Exam nerves are not a condition but describe the feelings of stress experienced during an examination period. For the majority of people, exam nerves are temporary and mild and are a perfectly human reaction. However, for some, symptoms can become so severe it has a detrimental impact on health.

If you are experiencing severe exam nerves you should visit your GP in the first instance. If left untreated, stress can develop into long-term anxiety problems or depression.

  • SchoolStudents
  • GCSE
  • A-level
  • Degree
  • Assessment
  • Graduate
  • Pass
  • Fail
  • Test
  • Tension

Therapies to consider
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