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Staying Grounded During Exams

Do you or a child you care for have an exam coming up? Exam season is well and truly upon us and as anyone who has ever taken a test knows, this can be a challenging time.

Image description: A photo of an exam hall with tables and blue chairs lined from front to back.


Exams can bring about heightened feelings of worry and fear in us all, and this is normal and to be expected. Whilst these feelings can help us to channel our energy into doing the best we can, if they become too big or uncontrollable, they can negatively affect our wellbeing and make finishing an exam more difficult than it needs to be.

Here in the SPRINT Project, we promote the use of grounding strategies to help effectively manage intense emotions. Grounding strategies can help us to feel more relaxed, in control and focused on the task at hand. These are especially useful tools to have in our toolbox while revising and writing exams.

Read on for 6 grounding strategies that you or a child you care for can use quickly, easily, and privately in a quiet exam hall or classroom to beat those exam nerves!

Exam grounding strategy #1

Keeping your feet on the ground. As you walk into the exam hall or classroom, notice how it feels when your feet touch the ground, and the length of your strides. Try to think about the strength of your feet connecting with the ground below them as you walk!

Image description: A photo looking down at a person’s feet on the ground. The person is wearing black trousers and black and white shoes.

Exam grounding strategy #2

Counting backwards. In your head, count backwards slowly from 20. Try to focus on saying the numbers very clearly in your head, with a short one second gap in between each one. You could also imagine the numbers appearing and disappearing as you say them and close your eyes whilst doing this if this is helpful.


Exam grounding strategy #3

Smelling the flower. Imagine that you are holding a flower in your hand. This can be any kind of flower that you like, but the smellier the better! Take a deep breath in, imagining that you are smelling the flower. Wait for one second, and then breathe out slowly. Whilst you breathe out, imagine the petals of the flower moving gently. Repeat 5 times, or as many times as you need.

Image description: A photo of blue, pink, yellow and red flowers outside surrounded by trees.

Exam grounding strategy #4

Categories game. Choose a category, for example rectangle shapes or blue colours. Look around the exam hall or classroom and in your head, slowly name all the things that you can see in that category. Repeat with different categories if needed.


Exam grounding strategy #5

Orange juice. Imagine that you are holding a ripe orange in each hand. As you take a deep and slow breath in, clench your fists, imagining that you are squeezing the juice out of the two oranges. As you breathe out, unclench your fists, releasing the squeezed oranges. Repeat 5 times, or as many times as you need.

Image description: A photo of oranges.

Exam grounding strategy #6

Bunny breath. Using just your nose, breathe in 3 times. Then, after one second, breathe out slowly through your nose. Repeat 5 times, or until you feel ready to hop back into your exam paper!

Image description: Photo of students completing an exam in an exam hall.

Some strategies may work better for some people, and less well for others. So, to work out which strategies work best for you or your child, we recommend practicing them before exams.


You can also check out the SPRINT Project’s grounding infographics here, where we explain some key grounding strategies that can be used in our day-to-day lives.

Do you have any strategies or techniques that have proved beneficial for you or a child you care for? Tell us about them by getting in touch using the form below!

We wish everyone who is taking exams over the upcoming weeks the best of luck! And remember to seek support from individuals that you trust if your feelings become too overwhelming as you prepare for your exams.


Image credit: Canva.

Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Postdoctoral Researcher in the SPRINT Project.

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