Hypnosis and Exam Anxiety - Could hypnotherapy help you perform to your best in exams?

Spring seems to have arrived early in the UK as it's another beautiful sunny day and it's still only February as I write this. This time last year we had snow on the way so this a lovely change (although I love snow!) and I'm even wearing shorts in the office today. The mornings and evenings are notably lighter and it won't be long until temperatures start rising earlier until later (although it's sunny today it was still only about two degrees when I headed to bootcamp this morning). 

And it's been a pretty awesome weekend all around. Saturday started with a tough but oddly pleasurable tyre routine at bootcamp, I had a full day working with some great clients and then got to watch Wales beat England in the Six Nations rugby (always a highlight when we win!). On a post rugby high I ran probably the best I have all year on the sun yesterday and then spent a fun day at a nearby National Trust place with the kids. If every weekend was like that I would be even happier (yet probably pretty tired too!).

One thing the arrival of spring always takes my mind back to, is the link between the arrival of the nicer weather and how it is intrinsically linked to the knowledge of upcoming exams. I can still vividly remember for my GCSEs, A-levels and degree how the sun would shine and I would want to be outside, yet my focus had to remain on my work.

One of the things I start to get contacted about a lot from this point of the year onwards is for those who have GCSEs or A-levels coming up this summer. The growing sense they are coming closer, that sense of pressure to do well, the dread of the exam room and going blank and all the other exam related anxiety and stress, can lead to overwhelm and panic. 

Exams can be pretty stressful events at the best of times, but add in anxiety, stress and diminishing confidence and it massively escalates all those unhelpful thoughts and worst case scenarios and lead to underperforming in the exam room. 

You may have already come across it and signed up but I have a free short e-mail course that you can access from this page (I know of one local college which gave every one of their students with upcoming exams a copy so they could benefit from the strategies and tips): Exam Anxiety Help 

And in case the weather changes and there is any doubt of the February sunshine, here I am at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire with my girls yesterday:

exam anxiety hypnotherapy ely


And here I am in layers and a hat at bootcamp in the cold (and yes those bear crawls were savage as the trainer has written on the picture!):

exam anxiety hypnotherapy ely newmarket

I'm sure being able to crawl like a bear (or at least do my impression of walking like a bear) will come in handy one day! Won't it?!!

Symptoms of Exam Anxiety & Stress 

As with all anxiety, there can be many uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that, with exams, are all centred on things going negatively or not as well as you would like them to. 

Physical symptoms can include things such as a racing heart, sweating, nausea, tension and headaches, amongst other things. Those anxious thoughts can be fllled with doubt, what-ifs and worst case scenarios about going blank in the exam room, not getting everything learnt in time or failing the exams and what that might mean for your future. You may struggle to concentrate, have a feeling of dread, experience negative self-talk, perceive yourself as doing worse than others and worry about letting yourself or others down. You might feel excessive feelings of dread, fear, anger, frustration, helplessness or feeling low.

I've worked with cleints where they are filled with anxiety that they may fail upcoming exams, as well as helping those who have previous bad experiences in the exam room or having a panic attack, going blank or being unable to remember what they revised. Often it may be the case that you are fine in the classroom or in general tests (because you know what you need to know) but all the pressure of the 'big' exams just knocks you off course and you can't perform as well as you know you should be able to.   

As I'll go onto now, there is a quick way to get an idea of how much exam anxiety you struggle with and how it impacts upon you. 

Do You Struggle With Exam Anxiety?

A bit of stress and anxiety about exams can be utilised productively to keep you focused and motivated before and during your exams. However, too much stress and anxiety and all those unwanted thoughts and unhelpful feelings can interrupt your study and ruin your exam performance.

The 'Test Anxiety Questionnaire' is a short questionnaire designed (Nist & Diehl (1990)) to assess whether you have mild anxiety levels about exams or if your anxiety is at an unhealthy level. Looking at ten statements that analyse your experience of exam anxiety, you rate how often each of the things affects you on a scale of 1 to 5 where never is one and five is always (the full range is never, rarely, sometimes, often, always).

You would then give a score from one to five to each statement which are, whether you experience visible signs of nervousness such as sweaty palms, shaky hands, and so on right before a test, whether you have “butterflies” in your stomach before a test,  feel nauseated before a test,  read through the test and feel that you do not know any of the answers, whether you panic before and during a test, if your mind goes blank during a test, whether you remember the information that you blanked once you get out of the testing situation, if you have trouble sleeping the night before a test,  whether you make mistakes on easy questions or put answers in the wrong places, and whether you have trouble choosing answers.

Once you have added up your scores for all the statements you will have a number out of fifty. Anything up to nineteen and it is considered that you do not suffer from exam anxiety (and may even need a bit more anxiety to get you focused). A score over thirty five would suggest you experience an unhealthy level of exam anxiety and should evaluate the reasons for your stress and take action to learn ways to deal and cope with the stress and anxiety of exam situations. Hypnotherapy is, of course, one great way of learning how to manage your exam anxiety so that you can be more mentally calm and physically relaxed as you learn, revise and in the exam room.

exam fear help anxiety hypnotherapy ely

Impact of Hypnotherapy on Exam Anxiety and Performance

One recent research paper I have come across recently used the above test anxiety questionnaire as a way of evaluating the impact of hypnotherapy on overcoming exam anxiety and improving scholastic achievement (Mathur & Khan, 2011).

They took a group of thirteen and fourteen year olds and used hypnotherapy to examine how it could help with their test anxiety. The concluded that 'hypnotherapy as a treatment intervention proved to be effective in reducing exam anxiety and improving scholastic performance amongst children."

Further, "anxiety symptoms of forgetting before the exam, excessive nervousness, sweating during and before the exam, going blank after seeing the paper were all controlled/eliminated after hypnotherapy and these were observed by the teachers, parents and the children themselves."

Although they only used a small sample, these results, combined with other earlier research, suggest that hypnotherapy can be very helpful in overcoming exam anxiety and improving academic performance (which pretty much matches what I've found in my own work with students).

The Effect of Hypnosis on Exam Anxiety

As well as the above positive findings, there has also been a more recent 'systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials evaluating the effect of hypnosis on exam anxiety.'.  

In this review, the authors discuss how 'people suffering badly from exam anxiety can experiene nausea, panic attacks, inability to sleep and often an inability to perform in the exam...'  They go on to describe how studies have suggested strongly that highly anxious people are not less academically able and have the ability to perform well in exams yet can perform poorly because of the debilitating effects of anxiety. As hypnotherapy is often used as a treatment for more severe forms of anxiety, such as acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, it seems more than possible that it can help with other experiences of anxiety such as exam anxiety.

They concluded that, "overall, this systematic review provides evidence to suggest that hypnosis is effective in reducing exam anxiety" (although, like most research papers they do say that further research is needed to support this conclusion). 

"The pooled effect size is a substantial effect size for an educational intervention and in view of the impact of the problem any reduction in exam anxiety would appear to be a positive outcome." 

So here again, more encouraging support for the use of hypnotherapy for exam anxiety that fits nicely alongside the positive results I have achieved with clients. Do  be sure to grab yourself a copy of my free exam guide as mentioned above (from this page) and have a look at my Cambridge News article about this subject (how to beat exam stress and anxiety) and start to apply the strategies that will help you feel and be calm, confident and in control through your revisions and exams. 

To your exam success,

Dan Regan 

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket


Like to read more about overcoming anxiety? You can read more of my articles here: Overcoming Anxiety Articles

Seeking help to overcome your exam anxiety? Book your Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session with Dan to learn more now: Appointments

Find out what other people have said after their hypnotherapy sessions with Dan: What People Say

And check out these powerful hypnosis downloads that can start helping you right away: Hypnosis Downloads



Mathur, Shachi, and Waheeda Khan. "Impact of hypnotherapy on examination anxiety and scholastic performance among school children." Delhi Psychiatry Journal 14, no. 2 (2011): 337-342.

Jennifer Baker, Hannah Ainsworth, Carole Torgerson & David Torgerson (2009) A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomised controlled trials evaluating the effect of hypnosis on exam anxiety, Effective Education, 1:1, 27-41, DOI: 10.1080/19415530903043664