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Are you nervous about your upcoming GCSE or A level exams?

6 May 2022 Quick Guides

It’s perfectly normal to experience a degree of nerves or anxiety in the lead up to an exam or test. The reality is that situations such as your GCSE & A Level exams are a big deal. These are the first set of exams that are going to have an impact on your future educational choices. Being nervous about how well you do is completely understandable.

The truth is, being nervous is a good thing – it shows you care. Ultimately, it can help improve your performance because it provides you with an incentive to do your absolute best. However, if those nerves start to have an impact on your health (you may experience dizziness, racing heart or an inability to sleep), you’re moving into a more anxiety-based response, which isn’t good for you, or your chances of securing the grade you deserve.

Here at Tutorspot we know how daunting the upcoming GCSE & A Level exams can be. That’s why we’ve put together some of our tutors’ top tips on how to tackle exam nerves and anxiety.

#1 Be prepared

Many of the concerns surrounding exams revolve around our ability to answer the questions properly. Our online maths tutors often report students saying:

What if there’s a question I don’t understand?

What if there’s a question on something I’ve not studied?

The reality is that you can’t control what is on that exam paper, but you can help eliminate some of the guess work by completing practice papers. This is why all of our online tutors work with our students to ensure they understand the best ways to answer the typical questions that are likely to come up in GCSE & A Level exams.

Student studying with online tutor

#2 Step away from the books – take some exercise

Stepping away from your books and the pressures of studying can do you the world of good. Spending too much time focussing on revision, even if you’re spreading this over several subjects, may cause your mind to become fatigued.

If that happens, it may become harder to concentrate, and it could start to feel as though you’ve forgotten things you knew only a few days before. Before you know it, you can spiral into a situation where you start to doubt your own abilities, which increases your anxiety about your performance, potentially impacting your ability to study.

Taking time away from the books is always a good idea to prevent burnout. It doesn’t matter what you do – watch a film, spend some time with your friends, it’s all important and will do you the world of good. It’s well documented that there are huge benefits associated with exercise, and it’s certainly something you should consider.

Exercise, whether that be walking, running, swimming, dancing or riding a bike, is a great way to release endorphins, which are natural “feel good” chemicals (just ask your science tutor). As a result, they increase your general sense of well-being and reduce anxiety. Exercise also encourages you to stop thinking about anything that’s bothering you, giving your mind a much needed “time out”, ensuring you can return to your studies feeling fresher and rested.

Regular exercise will also ensure you are approaching your exams with a healthier mindset. People who exercise regularly often report sleeping better, having more focus, and feeling more confident in their abilities to do things, even if they are unrelated to their chosen sport.

Teenager jumping in the air

#3 Eat well

If you’re planning to spend as much time studying as possible, it can be tempting to skimp on the meals. Snacks such as crisps, biscuits and chocolate may be easy to eat at your desk, but they’re not nutritionally balanced. Equally, energy drinks may feel as though they’re giving you the power to study for longer, but excess sugar and caffeine is going to ultimately have a negative impact on your mental capacity and make you feel more jittery, rather than relaxed.

Regular healthy meals will help keep your mind and body properly fuelled, ensuring you’re not exposing yourself to sugar highs or lows. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stave off dehydration, which will lead to fatigue and headaches, making studying harder to concentrate on.

It’s also important to bear in mind that a healthy diet can do wonders for the immune system. When you’re feeling run down, you’re at far greater risk of picking up colds, and for those colds to have a greater impact on your health. Nobody wants to go into an exam with a blocked nose or a sore throat!

Taking extra vitamins is also a great way to try to stay healthy during your exams. Vitamin C helps to protect and fortify the immune system, whilst vitamin B and Magnesium are essential to help the healthy functioning of the brain, and for relaxing as well. Take liposomal vitamins when you can, as they are a lot easier for us to absorb. Your biology tutor may be able to explain all of this to you and give you advice if you want.

Example of a healthy diet

#4 Get plenty of sleep

We know this may seem easier said than done when you’re feeling nervous, but sleep is essential to good exam performance. It doesn’t matter how well you know your topic if you’re too exhausted to concentrate on the day.

Ideally, you should be getting 7-8 hours sleep a night. If you’re struggling to drift off, limit your screen time before going to bed. Don’t allow a textbook to be the last thing you see before you turn off the light. Consider listening to some relaxing music, or practise meditation to calm your mind.

Close up of sleeping teenager getting rest before exams

#5 Control your breathing

Learning how to control your breathing can help you when the nerves feel like they’re spilling over into more serious anxiety or a panic attack. This is good both during your study and revision sessions, or during the exams themselves.

One effective method is to take a deep breath in through your nose. As you do so, count to six, or until your lungs feel full.

If possible, hold the breath for a count of five. If this doesn’t feel comfortable, do not try to push yourself.

Slowly exhale, again counting to six, as you do so.

Pause before repeating again as often as needed.

This breathing technique will help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will help your body relax.

Here at Tutorspot we have tutors all over the country, providing one to one online tutoring, in a variety of subjects. Also, if you and a friend or colleague want lessons together, we can also help with one of our online tutors. If you want to get a head start on your KS3, GCSE or A Level studies, use our search facilities to find a tutor perfect for you.

Our friendly and helpful team is available to help you choose a tutor. You can contact us by email (, phone (01509 265623) or complete the online contact form, and we can recommend a suitable online tutor for you.

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