How to support a friend doing exams

Find out how you can support a friend during exam time.

Written by spunout


It can be hard to know how to help when a friend is doing exams. Letting them know you are there for them is one of the first steps you can take to support them.

How to help a friend doing exams 

If your friend is feeling stressed or anxious about upcoming exams, know that there are simple things you can do to support them.

Ask them what they need

Every person is different and deals with exams in their own way. Considering this, it is a good idea to ask your friend what they do need and what they don’t need at this busy time. Once you have had that conversation, it will be easier to decide what steps you can take to support them.

Know their timetable 

It is a good idea to find out when your friend will be doing their exams. If you are familiar with their schedule, it can help you to determine when it might be a good time to suggest meeting for a chat or when it’s not. You can also send them a quick message before their exam to let them know you’re thinking of them. If they do not respond, try not to worry or feel offended. They might be busy preparing for exams, but likely will appreciate your support.

Go to the exam centre

If your friend doesn’t have anyone bringing them to the exam hall, offer to go with them. Sometimes the hour before an exam can be very stressful so having someone to talk to might help them to stay calm. You could also offer to meet them on the lunch break or for the walk home.

Talk about their last exam

It can sometimes be helpful to talk through an exam once it is over. This can allow us to process and move on from the experience. If your friend wants to talk through an exam, you can support them by listening to what they have to say. Encourage them to let it out, but also to accept that the exam is over now and there’s nothing more they can do. Try to encourage them to see the exam as an opportunity to learn and ask them what they could do differently next time.

Spend time together

If your friend has been spending a lot of time studying, they might need to be reminded or encouraged to take a break. Consider suggesting an activity that you can do together to take their mind off of the exams. For example, going for a gentle walk in nature can help them to clear their head and improve their focus for the next exam. Read more about self-care opportunities you can do with a friend. It can also be nice to plan something together for after their exams to give you both something to look forward to.

Offer to be their study partner

There are many different learning styles and what works for one person may not work for another. Some people work well alone when it comes to studying, but others prefer to study in groups. If your friend enjoys learning with others, you can offer to quiz them on their topic of choice. If you are also preparing for the same exam, this can help you to retain the information too.

Share mindfulness practices

If your friend is feeling anxious before or during the exams, you could suggest some mindful breathing exercises or other mindfulness practices to support them. Mindfulness can reduce stress, combat overthinking, improve focus and memory, and boost life satisfaction.

These practices are very simple, but can be very effective when it comes to managing anxiety. This list of five mindfulness exercises is a good place to start.

Remind them of their worth

It is important to remember that your exam results do not determine your worth. However, this can sometimes be difficult to remember in the moment, particularly when we live in a society where there is pressure to always be productive. You can remind your friend that they are more than their exam result by sharing things you admire about them or how much you value their friendship. Remind them that all they can do is their best and that that is enough.

Encourage them to talk to someone 

If your friend is finding the exams very challenging and you are worried about their wellbeing, it is a good idea to encourage them to talk to someone. This may be other friends, family members or a teacher. This might also consider talking to their GP or a mental health professional such as a counsellor. Read more about how to talk to a friend about their mental health. They could also consider contacting our free, 24/7 text support service 50808.

Take care of yourself

Being a caring and compassionate person is a wonderful thing. However, when you offer care and help to others without looking after your own needs, it can take its toll on your wellbeing. If you are supporting a friend through a difficult time, it is important to continue to care for yourself in the process.

This might involve setting boundaries in your relationships, taking time to be by yourself or supporting your friend in other ways. Taking these steps doesn’t mean that you are a bad friend or that you don’t care about the other person. By protecting your own wellbeing, you will be better able to support those you care about. Find out more about how to care for others without negatively impacting your own wellbeing.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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