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Exam confidence. Tackling exam nerves with hypnotherapy and NLP

Updated on April 19, 2011
Photographed by Milford. Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Photographed by Milford. Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Help!!! I've got exam nerves!

It's amazing how many otherwise confident people just go to pieces when faced with an exam. Some people come out in a cold sweat at the very mention of the word, yet, realistically, exams are a time for showing off your skills.

If you are suffering from exam nerves you might consider getting a little help. If you are a person whose mind goes blank and whose knees go to jelly when faced with an examination paper, a session or two with a qualified hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner can make all the difference  Hypnosis and NLP are particularly helpful for confidence issues and phobias of all descriptions.

How does hypnosis and hypnotherapy work?

It might be helpful to consider your mind as a kind of powerful, personal computer system that can be programmed through education and experience, Every waking moment of every day, your mind is processing an enormous amount of information. Facts and figures, names and faces, colours, tastes, smells, sounds. We suck it all in, and use it to form our own highly individual view of the world.

Now consider that your personal operating system works on different levels. You have a conscious process which involves decision making and critical thinking, and a sub-conscious process, which acts as your hard-wiring. The conscious mind controls voluntary actions such as having conversations, choosing from a menu, or reading a map. But the sub-conscious mind is ticking away at the same time, processing information that gradually becomes part of your hard-wiring. All the actions that we perform without conscious effort happen because of our sub-conscious mind. This includes all the good things, such as breathing, eating, drinking, and generally keeping ourselves safe and alive, and it also includes the bad things such as addictive behaviours, and over-reactions to stress.

Hypnosis offers us a means of by-passing the conscious mind, thus giving us access to the hard-wiring. This is why it is so useful for dealing with bad habits such as smoking, and also for removing or reducing fears and phobias such as exam nerves.Hypnosis uses a natural state to help achieve this, and that is the state of trance. Everyone of us at some point in our lives experience trance. Most of us will go into a trance state fairly frequently during an average day. This often happens when you are doing routine tasks, or when you're deeply involved in a hobby, or leisure activity, or when you're simply day-dreaming. A hypnotherapist will usually induce trance by softening his or her voice and talking you into a state of relaxation. Once you are in a trance you will still be able to hear and understand everything that's said to you, but you will be more susceptible to the helpful suggestions made by your therapist.

So how will these suggestions help?

Your therapist will discuss your problem in great detail before commencing hypnosis. Many people have a straightforward phobia of exams due to a previous bad experience. A fear of failure is common even amongst straight 'A' students. Other people have an extreme version of the 'fight or flight' reflex when they see the exam paper before them. Their brow becomes clammy, their heart races, and their palms sweat. This is a classic reaction to stressful situations, and a good hypnotherapist will soon help you to get this under control.

Your therapist may employ a visualisation technique such as the 'fast phobia cure'. You can learn about some of these techniques by clicking here. Alternatively, you might be given some suggestions under hypnosis to help you take a calmer approach, or else given some confidence building exercises to do at home in preparation for the big day.

Many of these techniques and exercises were originally developed by Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioners, but they produce such powerful results, that they have been adopted by hypnotherapists, and are commonly used alongside traditional hypnosis. NLP deals with the way we perceive ourselves and others, and the kind of 'self-talk' we employ in our daily lives. For example, a student might tell himself that exams are terrifying, and that he is bound to forget all he's learned as soon as he sees the test paper. A more positive approach would be for him to perceive the exam as exciting. and as an opportunity to show off hard-earned skills.

Can I use any of these techniques without visiting a hypnotherapist?

Not everyone has the opportunity or the financial resources to pay out for a hypnotherapist or an NLP practitioner. it's great if you can, but there is plenty of help available in books, CDs and DVDs. Well-known TV hypnotist, Paul McKenna, has written an excellent series of books which are relatively inexpensive and usually include a hypnosis CD inside the back cover. 'Instant Confidence' and 'Change Your Life in 7 Days,' are both helpful books by this author. YouTube also has any number of clips posted showing demonstrations of NLP and hypnosis, and there are some great web articles around, including many on this site.


Meanwhile, try 'reframing' your fear of exams by giving it a positive spin. The more positive messages we give ourselves, the better we do. There are many stories around about people who have succeeded against the odds. If Joanna Rowling had given up the first time someone rejected her book, the world would never have heard of Harry Potter. She had faith in her abilities, and that's what gave her the determination to carry on. Similarly The Beatles were famously rejected by Decca records before going on to great success elsewhere. Reframing provides us with one of the best NLP techniques. Tell yourself that you have all the skills you need to succeed (it helps at this point if you have actually studied and revised!) Now go into the exam with the idea that the examiner will be blown away by your natural ability and talent. The exam is a great opportunity to demonstrate how clever you really are!

Good luck with your exams! You know you can do it!


Submit a Comment

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Mark. Hypnosis can be such a helpful tool in the right hands.

  • Mark Powlett profile image

    Mark Powlett 5 years ago from Redditch, Worcestershire

    It's just coming up to exam season here in the UK and I am already starting to see clients in my hypnotherapy practice who are looking for help and advice. It's great to see your article and let's keep spreading the word so that people can see that they can find a better way to deal with those nerves and banish them forever.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

    NLP can be a powerful tool for good, although it needs to be used with care, and always with the best of intentions. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Ingenira profile image

    Ingenira 5 years ago

    It is amazing how NLP can help people erase the negative thoughts and changed people's life for good.

    Great hub !

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Entourage. I'm glad you found the info helpful. Good luck with any future exams!

  • Entourage_007 profile image

    Stuart 6 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

    I definitely have test anxiety and I've never heard of NLP before this article. THank you for sharing this with me, I will be sure to try it.

  • profile image

    Hardip kang 6 years ago

    Thanks for your nice NLP article.It is amazing mental exercise. I think one should learn perfect technique, in perfect way,then it will give the result. Now I will read all your articles. thanks...

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    That would be tricky, but not necessarily impossible. All sorts of weird and wacky things turn up in the curriculum these days.....! Perhaps someone like Paul McKenna could do a TV series about it. After all Jamie Oliver succeeded in getting a few more vegetables into school canteens by going on TV.

  • Spirit Whisperer profile image

    Xavier Nathan 7 years ago from Isle of Man

    I completely agree with you on that but how would go about enlisting the support of educators who tend to be conservative types?

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Thanks for your comment Spirit Whisperer. I think that stage hypnosis has made many people wary of hypnotherapy, which is a great shame. I would like to see basic NLP and visualisation techniques taught in schools to help children become more confident in tackling unfamiliar situations.

  • Spirit Whisperer profile image

    Xavier Nathan 7 years ago from Isle of Man

    I well written and very informative hub packed full of practical advice that works. It makes sense to enlist the help of the subconscious in situations like this rather than allow it to sabotage all your hard work. I can't imagine why more people don't avail of this very simple and natural method. Voted up.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Futonfraggle, there are some great books on hypnosis and NLP around if you want to find out more, or alternatively you could find out about taster courses for hypnosis practitioners. I wrote about my experiences on one such coures in one of my earlier hubs, and how it led me into further studies. There are also some very good practitioners who can really help with confidence issues. Often hypnosis brings real and lasting results in only a few sessions.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • futonfraggle profile image

    futonfraggle 7 years ago

    I totally believe in the power of positive thought. I used to flunk exams all the time. I was consumed with fear and worry. I studied by butt off for my exams, but I allowed fear and anxiety to block out everything I spent countless hours learning and memorizing.

    I've never tried hypnosis or NLP, but I think I may look into these tools. My test-taking days are over, but anything that may improve my confidence and help me tackle my nerves is worth looking into.

    Great hub, Amanda.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Astra, hypnosis and NLP are great tools for improving confidence and self-belief. I studied hypnotherapy some years ago, and I've always found it to be very helpful. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Astra Nomik profile image

    Cathy Nerujen 7 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

    I have never tried hypnotherapy or NLP. Sounds interesting. Thankfully all my exams are behind me. Great hub. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Angie, I suspect that far too many people are afraid of hypnotherapy because of the shenanigans of stage hypnotists. It's a pity, because it's such a simple and non-invasive therapy, and it can make a huge difference to those that are willing to try it.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Fay, I've seen the difference that hypnotherapy can make at first hand. It's certainly worth a try for anyone with exam nerves or a fear of driving tests.

  • Angie Jardine profile image

    Angie Jardine 7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

    Super hub, Amanda ... extremely clear and well put. Hopefully it will sway those of us who are still uncertain about hypnosis/NLP.

    Voted up!

  • profile image

    Fay Paxton 7 years ago

    This sounds like it might be a good idea. The idea of hypnosis is very interesting.


  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi AttemptedHumour, it sounds as though you enjoy a challege, and that's how you treated your exams. Some of us have strong competitive instincts, and our 'fight or flight' mode kicks in, in the most unlikely situations. That's possibly what happens to you when you're playing indoor soccer?

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Amillar, I think I probably have a few loose screws myself! I actually studied hypnosis and NLP and qualified as a practitioner some years ago. It definitely can make a very real difference to people with confidence issues. As you so accurately say 'it's all in the mind'! Most of us are capable of far more than we realise.

  • attemptedhumour profile image

    attemptedhumour 7 years ago from Australia

    Hi Amanda i would also enjoy and be unfased by an exam. I was told by the lecturer at college that i would definitely fail my city and guilds exam, but i passed with flying colours. I can imagine some people getting nervous though, like i still do when i play indoor Soccer. It's crazy really as i don't care who wins, or who we are playing. It's natural to be nervous and i'm sure your advice will be handy for many people.

  • amillar profile image

    amillar 7 years ago from Scotland, UK

    That seems a good idea Amanda - I expect that hypnosis would work very well for many people. ('It's all in the mind', as they say.) It's a bit late for me though, and I suppose it depends on how good the wiring is to begin with. I think my hard-wiring's all there, but there’s a few loose screws up there.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Frieda, stage fright and public speaking are definitely high on the list of phobias that can be helped by hypnosis and NLP. Driving tests also make people very nervous, but I think that one merits a whole hub of its own! Great to see you here as always, and thanks for commenting.

  • Frieda Babbley profile image

    Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

    Interesting topic. I never really got nerves taking exams, for the same reasons you mentioned in your comment above. I think this could be something to look into if you've got stage fright or public speaking problems as well, though, don't you think? Great hub. Thumbs up and useful.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Lynda. Strangely, I must be one of the few people I know who actually enjoyed exams. That's not because I'm extra smart, (I'm really not) but more because I love to test myself. It never occurred to me to be scared or intimidated, and I was surprised when I discovered that other people don't necessarily feel the same.

    There are quite a number of articles around that give ideas for revision and exam preparation, but very few of them address exam phobia. Of course the best preparation is to actually know your subject, but a cool head and a calm and focussed attitude is very important too.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • lmmartin profile image

    lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

    So glad exams are a thing of the past, but this is excellent advice for those still facing the horror. Lynda


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