What can we help you with? Fear of examinations
Danish Printfriendly Sitemap

Are you afraid of attending examinations?

Most students are nervous or afraid of examinations, and a moderate nervousness is often an advantage if you are to perform at your best.

When nervousness becomes anxiety
However, some experience more burdensome anxiety problems regarding their examinations – either when studying for the examination or at the examination itself. If the problems are recurring, or if you fail or opt out of an examination several times, the problems can turn into a regular fear of attending examinations.

Problems with preparation
When preparing for an examination it can be, for instance, that you - because of fear or worry - find it difficult to structure your reading properly, prioritise the reading material, or separate reading time and leisure time. It is also very common that you push yourself too hard and study too much each day.

Problems during the examination
In connection with the examination itself some experience, because of stress and fear, that they can't remember the material, despite the fact that they have prepared well for the examination. This can happen during your preparation, or your memory may fail when you have sat down in front of the examiner and external examiner.

Physical symptoms of anxiety
For some students it is enough just to think of the word examination before their body reacts with symptoms of anxiety: Rapid heartbeat, outbursts of perspiration, and stomach aches. The physical inconveniences may be so marked – possibly even several months before the examination – that you contemplate all kinds of solutions with the purpose of escaping the discomfort. For instance, by skipping or considering to postpone the examination, doubting whether this really is the right study programme, considering to drop out, etc.

Fear of examinations can be many things
Fear of examinations can be expressed in many ways, and may be connected to various issues:

Being a new student
As a new student at a higher educational institution, you may come directly from the gymnasium (secondary school), and it may be hard to accept lower grades than you have been used to. Where you might previously have been one of the best, you are now but one of the many skilled. This may be experienced as a personal, and not academic, defeat.

Academic difficulties
Perhaps your fear of examinations is about having made the wrong choice of study programme, or lack of motivation to do the necessary effort – or simply lack of abilities for some reason. You may fear an examination with good cause, because you are not properly prepared for it.

Inappropriate study techniques
If your motivation is high, you may not have learnt to pick up on the material yet because of inappropriate study structuring and reading techniques.

Perfectionism and performance anxiety
Many students who fear examinations suffer from perfectionism, and thus often also of performance anxiety. They set extremely high demands for themselves in all matters, and thereby the risk of failure becomes greater, which in turn increases their anxiety. Here it is not enough to look at the examination separately. You must also consider the way you look at yourself and others. Behind perfectionism people often hide a low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

Severe personal problems
If you for a period up until the examination have had severe personal problems - for instance, grave problems concerning relationships, a serious disease, or death of a loved one - it will naturally affect your preparation and examination. It is therefore to be assumed that your fear of examination is not about your ability to do the examination, but the fact that you have not had the necessary inner calm that examination requires.

What does the Student Counselling Service offer?
At the Student Counselling Service you can, through individual conversations or group sessions, get help to work on your examination difficulties.


Are you afraid of examination because:

  • You should be reading something entirely different?
  • You structure your studies unsuitably?
  • You don't like to speak in public?
  • You have another kind of anxiety?

Learn from your experiences
Try to write down some good and some bad experiences. For instance, if you panicked about the fact that others wrote and wrote, while you were stalling, then sit in the front next time you are attending a written examination. Or if you became extremely nervous about having to wait all morning for an oral exam, try spending the waiting time better next time.

Create a realistic reading plan
Try to gain an overview over your syllabus. List what and how much you need to read each day. Don't plan for more than 6-7 hours a day. Mix difficult material with easier. Put in fixed breaks. Drink plenty of water and eat something healthy.

Make sure to take time off
It is hard work to read and attend examinations. Therefore, take time off to gain more energy. Exercise, hold on to your leisure pursuits, hang out with your friends ... do the things that make you happy.

Learn relaxation
When you are able to relax, you become less nervous and get more energy to think clearly. Learn relaxation at a course, through books, or from someone who already knows about it.

Think positive
Exchange catastrophic thoughts: "I can't do anything, I'm going to fail, I'm going to die, they will rip me to pieces” with positive thoughts: "I can handle it, I have done what I can, it will be fine". The more you become acquainted with your examination fear, the more you are able to gain control over it.