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How to handle exam results anxiety and stress

Find out how to manage your anxiety around exam results time


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in education


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Waiting for exam results can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you are expecting results from exams like the Leaving Cert or college summer exams.

You might feel nervous and stressed leading up to results day, however this is normal and a little bit of stress can actually help you to get motivated for dealing with problems and pressure. If the stress becomes all-consuming and it's hard to take your mind off of it, that's a sign you could be suffering from anxiety.

Stress and anxiety at exam results time

Exams are stressful. First there's the lead up in preparing for the exams, then there's the day of the exam itself, and once it's all over, you'll have to wait to find out how you did. It's understandable that you might be feeling anxious around this time. 

Why am I so anxious?

Some of the reasons you might be anxious about your results include:

  • The pressure to get good results for the course or career you want
  • Pressure from parents and family who expect you to get good results
  • Worrying about the future and whether you’ll make the right choices for the year ahead
  • You might feel overwhelmed by changes such as leaving home, starting a new life, friends moving away or maybe you’re worrying that others are changing whilst you stay the same

These feelings are normal. Your friends are probably feeling the same way, so talk to them about your worries. 

How to handle exam results anxiety

There are a number of things you can do to minimise the impact of stress and anxiety around the time of exam results.

Know that failing an exam does not make you a failure

Remember, if you fail an exam, you are not a failure - you are still a good person, just a good person who failed an exam. Usually, failing an exam only means you have to repeat, and you'll have plenty of time to prepare. This might delay your plans, but having to repeat is not the end of the world.

Failing an exam may also lead to a change of direction to get to where you want to go, or it could open up a new path entirely. There is always another way to achieve your goals.

Stay calm

When you do get your results, try to stay calm and make sure to talk to a parent, teacher or a friend about what you want to do next.

Avoid people who could stress you out

Sometimes, friends or the people around us can make us feel worse about a big event like exam results coming up. Try to avoid letting their negativity rub off on you and focus on yourself.

Try some relaxation techniques

It’s really important not to let anxiety take over your life. Try using different techniques to help you relax, including breathing exercises.

Here are 9 ways to manage anxiety you can also try.

How to reduce stress at exam results time

Here are some things to try when it comes to reducing your stress levels while you wait for your results.

  • Talk to a friend and confide in them about how you're feeling
  • Express yourself through writing, sport, art, music, fashion, etc as a way to relieve tension
  • Handle life’s challenges one day at a time, and avoid spending all your time worrying about ‘tomorrow’
  • Think about talking to a doctor as sometimes it can be good to talk so someone outside your immediate friends and family about things
  • Know and accept your strengths and weaknesses
  • Strive to change the source of stress and/or your reaction to it
  • Remember: Alcohol won’t reduce stress; it will only make things worse

Find out 10 tips for dealing with stress here

If you need to talk to someone right now, you can contact Samaritans who provide confidential emotional support to people experiencing feelings of anxiety.

Read more about dealing with anxiety here.  

If you are at university or college, there is often a free counselling service provided. See Please Talk for information on student support services at all the universities in the Republic of Ireland.

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Published December 11th, 2012
Last updated August 22nd, 2018
Tags stress leaving cert exams
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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