Suffering from pre-exam nerves?

stressed student linkAre pre-exam nerves getting you down?

For most, being proficient in another language is not enough. You will at some point need to prove your proficiency level to Universities you may be applying to, or to your prospective employers. To do this, you’ll need to take a language proficiency test.

Almost everyone gets nervous before taking their language proficiency test. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last to experience butterflies in the stomach on your way to your test centre! Nerves are a perfectly natural reaction to a stressful situation, and won’t usually stop you from performing at your best. Many say they help them to perform better in stressful situations!

Luckily, there are some practical ways to dull those nerves, allowing you to focus more on the task in hand.


Preparation is key! Make a study schedule, and start studying a little every day in the weeks before the exam. The experts tell us that if we study a little over a period of time, we can actually remember more! So don’t leave it all until the day before the exam.

Preparation also includes knowing the format of the exam. Taking a multiple-choice exam is a lot different from writing an exam essay, so make sure you understand beforehand what kind of questions you’ll be faced with! If you’re taking the Oxford Test of English, why not try a sample test to better understand the layout of the exam?

A final word about preparation – is your revision technique working for you? It’s always worth trialling new methods. Some people like flashcards, while others like to draw mind maps or use pictures to help them remember. Or you could study with a friend: try testing each other, or practising your English speaking skills with each other.

24 hours until your test! 

There’s a lot to be said about simply eating healthy. Good nutrition boosts your ability to concentrate and retain information, so eat a well-balanced diet full of vegetables, fruit and protein. Water is vitally important, and overloading on caffeine is definitely bad, so put down those energy drinks!

Take a walk…

Oh, and did we mention exercise? You need exercise to stay healthy, but most importantly on the day, it can help you to vent some of that nervous energy before an exam. A quick walk before heading into the test centre can work wonders for your mood.


All this will count for nothing, however, with little or no sleep. A lack of sleep makes it harder to focus and recall information, you may not be able to perform at your best! So don’t stay up late studying the night before an exam, and then overload on coffee en-route to the test centre – this could just worsen those nerves!

And finally, what if you are prepared, healthy and well-rested, but still nervous on the night before the exam? Well, first of all, try not to study the night before the exam – it’s better to stay calm so you can get a good night’s sleep. Take a hot bath, do some drawing, do yoga, play a game with a friend, do some deep breathing, and go to bed early with some lavender next to your pillow! Whatever makes you tick. The next day you should eat some breakfast rich in protein and carbohydrates – this will give your brain the energy it needs to stay focused. Breathe deeply and stay positive – remember, you have prepared for this!

Good luck!

Looking for a language proficiency test? The Oxford Test of English is a computer-adaptive English proficiency test, developed by Oxford University Press and certified by the University of Oxford. It is more flexible, cost-effective, and faster than traditional proficiency tests.

Click here to find your nearest test centre!

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

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