Study MethodsTime Management Skills

Exam Stress: When You Know it All, But the Mind Goes Blank

By May 21, 2019 No Comments

mind goes blankThere is nothing more terrifying than walking into the exam hall feeling confident, only for your mind to go completely blank the moment the paper lands on the desk in front of you. Why does this happen? And what can you do about it? Let’s find out.


Exam anxiety is extremely common amongst students, even amongst those who prepare thoroughly ahead of time. In fact, it’s often these types of high-achieving, hard-working students who experience the worst of it.

More often than not, students will blank out during an exam because they’re so anxious they can’t even think straight. After all, there’s so much pressure on you to perform well – whether it comes from a parent, a lecturer or even yourself! Anxiety is understandable, but it doesn’t have to leave you debilitated.

What to Do

If you find yourself blanking out during an exam, the first step is to do everything in your power to gather your thoughts, slow your mind and relax. Turn the paper over for a few minutes, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Remind yourself that even though this feels like a life or death situation, it really isn’t.

When you are feeling somewhat composed again, flip the paper back over and read through all the questions, ticking off the ones that you feel most confident about answering. Begin by answering all of these first before moving on to the ones that you’ve gone blank on. This will help to ensure that you’re able to rack up the highest possible number of marks.

After the exam, don’t waste time beating yourself up about going blank. All that you can do going forward is your best to prevent it from happening again. Prepare even more thoroughly next time and ensure that emotional preparation is just as big of a priority as revising your work.

Manage your stress (you might want to give meditation or yoga a try) and make sure that you get enough rest in between study sessions. It’s also a good idea to consider giving up caffeine as it can be a trigger for people with anxiety and will make it a lot more difficult for you to get the quality sleep that you need leading up to the exams.

Do you have any advice regarding coping with exam stress to share with your fellow students? Be sure to do so on our Facebook page!

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