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New study shows that exam nerves can have a long-lasting effect on career and study choices

More than nine out of ten people in the UK have experienced exam nerves at school or university, according to a new study by LIBF and IU Group


More than nine out of ten people in the UK have experienced exam nerves at school or university, according to a new study by LIBF and IU Group.

  • Almost 9 out of 10 Brits have experienced exam nerves; more than three-quarters of them during school and/or university. 
  • Very few make use of help offers - despite the effects of anxiety being potentially serious. 
  • Almost two-thirds of those affected feel that their anxiety is not taken seriously. 
  • For more than half, too high self-expectations are a major reason for their test anxiety.

London, 09. January 2024 – According to a recent study by The London Institute of Banking & Finance and IU Group, exam nerves can have serious consequences on career and study choices. Despite nine out of 10 people in the UK having experienced exam nerves at school or university, most don’t seek help. Of the 91% of respondents who said they had experienced exam nerves: 

  • Over half had been prevented from pursuing their chosen career or study the subject of their choice. 
  • 65% didn’t think exam nerves were taken seriously. 
  • Only 18% sought help – with many citing feeling ‘awkward’ or ‘embarrassed’ as the reason why not.  


Nadim Choudhury, Director of Careers and Employability, at LIBF says: 

Nadim Choudhury

“The fear of failure, high expectations – and being worried about what others will think – are some of the main reasons why people get anxious before exams and other key life events." 

“Unfortunately very few people seek help, despite the negative impacts. These are not only immediate – the mental and physical toll – but also far-reaching. Nerves can affect your future life choices and options, and they need to be taken seriously.” 

“There is support available, and self-help measures that people can take. Preparation, structured study plans and mindfulness tools like deep breathing and hypnotherapy are powerful tools to help people overcome nerves and anxiety." 

“Most universities offer help and support – and there are free resources online. Students shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it or ask for help.”

Core findings 

  • 91% of all respondents have experienced exam nerves at one time or another 
    • 76% at school/university 
    • 61% when applying for a job 
    • 24% during vocational training 
    • 4% in other situations 
    • 9% have never had exam nerves 
  • Exam nerves arise primarily from the fear of failure and its consequences. 
  • 65% felt their exam nerves were not taken seriously 
  • 54% of respondents with exam nerves say: “Exam nerves have or had an impact on my professional career.” The fear of tests, exams, and the like, stands in the way of careers or prevents respondents from achieving the qualifications they wanted. 
  • Only 18% had sought help. 
    • Of those: 
      • 53% from friends and family 
      • 37% on the internet 
      • 37% from school psychologists or student counsellors 
      • 28% from books 
      • 26% from psychological psychotherapy 
      • 24% from coaching or career advisers 
    • Of the 82% who had not yet sought help: 
      • 41% want to manage it themselves 
      • 35% felt awkward and embarrassed 
      • 34% said it was not so bad that they thought they needed help 
      • 18% said they didn’t know who to turn to

Quick tips to combat exam nerves 

  1. Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet for brain function. 
  2. Sleep well the night before to enhance alert ness and concentration. 
  3. Practice deep breathing to calm nerves before the exam. Visualise success, reinforcing positive outcomes. 
  4. Break down the exam into manageable sections, focusing on one at a time. 

Longer term strategies to help with exam nerves 

  1. Use a learning strategy – a structured and intentional way of acquiring and retaining new information. A learning strategy enhances understanding and can help deal with exam nerves. It involves methods such as effective notetaking, active engagement with the material, setting goals, and employing mnemonic devices. 
  2. Hypnotherapy can help – by fostering relaxation and enhancing confidence through guided imagery and positive suggestions, hypnotherapy can mitigate anxiety and improve focus. Incorporating hypnotic techniques into pre-exam routines may empower students to manage stress, fostering a conducive mindset for optimal performance. 
About the study 

Within the framework of the short study, “Exam Nerves”, 1,600 respondents between the ages of 16 and 65 in the UK we surveyed – representatively distributed according to age and gender for the British population. 

About LIBF 

Founded in 1879, LIBF provides education and training all around the world. We’re one of only a few professional bodies in the world with Taught Degree Awarding Powers. Our globally recognised degrees are designed with an emphasis on practical skills and innovative thought leadership that keeps pace with the real world. Our professional qualifications allow individuals to tailor their learning so they have the building blocks they need to build a career, and to progress. 

By combining 140 years of heritage in banking and finance with pioneering educational technology, we provide a flexible, personalised learning experience that is accessible to students both in the UK and globally. LIBF joined IU Group in 2023. Further information:


IU Group (IUG) is Europe’s largest private university group. IUG provides a well-diversified mix of online degree courses, part-time studies and on-campus learning. It is a pioneer in delivering high-quality education and leveraging technology and innovation to meet the changing needs of students around the world. Today, IUG’s vertically-integrated education platform offers the largest portfolio of bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in Europe with more than 250 accredited courses and some 600 upskilling offerings in German and English. IU Group cooperates with more than 15,000 enterprises and actively supports them in their people development including in high-demand areas such as business administration, data & artificial intelligence and technology. The company was founded in 2021 and is the proprietor of several universities – IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) in Germany with more than 35 campuses nationwide, the London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF) in the UK, as well as the University of Fredericton (UFred) in Canada – all together counting more than 140.000 students. Behind IU Group are more than 4,000 employees from nearly 90 nationalities. Further information: