Overcoming exam stress

Oxford famed for its education establishments still has a problem with exam stress

Exams of all varieties can be stressful

Stress about failing exams can harm students, which could result in dropping a grade and a half. An A* student could slip to a B because they were not dealing effectively with the stress. Back in 2013, the British Education Research Association found that worry over one’s performance could have a detrimental effect on performance. Though there are interactive self-help programs used in some schools, experience has shown that they are not always practical.

For the past nine years, I have been working with adults young and old, who are taking an important exam. Whether it’s GCSE or Ph.D., a driving exam or a job interview, all of them have reported anxiety because of the importance of the exam. Everything has to be perfect and how it’s stopping them sleep.


Sleep is vital to learning, as it’s where our brains sort through the information and determine what’s essential. If we don’t sleep, it affects our memories and our emotions, increasing anxiety, and so on in a vicious cycle.

Students report dark negative thoughts leading to procrastination and disruption of self-esteem and confidence levels.


Case Study

Will was in the run-up to his GCSE’s, and he needed to achieve A’s so he could go on to do his A levels. His true passion was to join the air force, so he needed to make good marks.

He was having very dark thoughts, and his inner voice was being very unhelpful by telling him he was a failure. Once he learnt how the brain works, he realised he was making things worse. By session 1, just listening to my CD was enough to improve his moods, and when dark thoughts do intrude, he’s able to let them go.

Next session, I taught him some tools that help with re-focusing once panic sets in, and how to scramble the automatic pictures that flood his mind. His mood was improving, and he managed to stop himself from panic in Physics.

Unhelpful thoughts

By Session 3, he realised he could ignore the unhelpful thoughts, and he had found his motivation for revising. He was happier, and his parents had noticed he was much more sociable and was joining in more.

At week 4, he had a small set back but was able to control the feeling of panic. He was back on track by session 5, enjoying his hobbies and friendships. If a negative thought went through his mind, he’d learned to scramble them and change them into something funny.

We had missed a week, but in week six he was delighted. We were heading into May, and Will was able to be in control and was focused, had all his revision under control. I saw him for two more sessions at his request, concentrate on staying calm and going for his dream.


“Hi Penny, I thought I should let you know that your therapy has completely changed me for the better. Since our final session, not only have I not suffered an attack like before, but the thoughts have hardly come into my head. I remember one night where the same thoughts came to me. They caused me to sit up. However, despite something like that, almost certainly causing me to have an attack a while ago. I was able to deal with the thoughts all by myself. Which was something I never thought I could do? I think your therapy also helped me to focus on GCSEs, and I am delighted to tell you that I ended up getting 7A*s and 6As, something I am immensely proud. Thank you again.”

For more comments about how Hypnotherapy has helped students see my testimonial page.

Also, see Exam stress

Plus: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/14-ways-to-beat-exam-stress