By Hava Salsi

15 February 2024 - 19:30

Friends relaxing before an exam with a walk in nature

In this article you will discover ten proven techniques to unwind and boost your IELTS performance:

 Whether you’re planning to study abroad, or aiming to unlock new career opportunities, taking the IELTS test is a major step towards achieving the future you want.

However, as your test approaches you might find yourself feeling increasingly anxious about test day. Luckily, there are ways to manage the stress and anxiety that often come with such a significant test.

Here are ten tips on how to relax before your exam, feel more confident and calm, and do your best on test day! 

Ten effective ways to relax before your IELTS test

1. Take practice tests

You’ll feel more nervous about taking IELTS if you’re not sure about the content or format of the test. So, knowing exactly what to expect on test day is an important way to manage your pre-test anxiety. 

Practice tests are a fantastic way to familiarise yourself with the test format and task types. As you practise the test tasks, you’ll be able to see where you can improve so you can tailor your test preparation and feel more confident on test day.

The British Council recently launched a preparation resource called IELTS Ready that has everything you need for your test preparation. From free practice tests to tailored study plans and tips and videos for score improvement, IELTS Ready will have what you need to feel confident on your test day. 

The British Council also offers free IELTS preparation webinars and IELTS Expert Facebook Live sessions that give IELTS test takers the opportunity to ask their questions about the test, or about English in general, and get answered on the spot. 

Learn more about IELTS Ready 

2. Meditate and practise mindfulness 

Studies show that practising mindfulness or meditation can decrease stress and improve your mental well-being. By being mindful, you can focus on the present instead of anxiety-inducing thoughts.

To start, find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Breathe in deeply, then slowly exhale. Concentrate on your breath and try to let go of distracting thoughts. 

If you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breath. It's normal for thoughts to arise, so don't get discouraged.

You can also use guided meditation apps or videos. Practise for five to ten minutes daily, gradually increasing the duration. This technique will help you stay grounded and calm, even when you’re about to take your IELTS test. 

3 Create positive affirmations 

Positive affirmations can be a powerful way of dealing with test anxiety. Even a short self-affirmation session can help relieve stress and even boost your problem-solving performance under pressure - a useful skill when answering IELTS test tasks! 

You can repeat your affirmations throughout the day or dedicate a specific block of time for the practice - maybe right before test preparation, or in the morning of your test day. 

Speak or think positive statements like:

  • “I have the skills to succeed.” 
  • “I am confident in my English knowledge.”
  • “I am capable.” 
  • “I can handle challenges.” 
  • “I believe in my language abilities.”
  • “I trust myself to do my best.”

4. Exercise

One way to relax before an exam is to do some physical activity, like jogging, swimming, yoga, or dancing. Exercise helps your body release endorphins, which naturally boost your mood, and reduce cortisol levels, or your body’s stress hormone. It’s a powerful way of helping you to relax before an exam. 

Choose whatever form of exercise you’re most comfortable with and aim for at least 30 minutes of activity per day. 

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Your sleep quality can change how your body deals with stress. If you’re wondering how to relax before an exam, sleep is an important part of stress reduction. 

So, even though you might be feeling nervous about your upcoming IELTS test, it’s important to follow this advice to improve your sleep:

  • Stick to a schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to regulate your body's internal clock. 
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Wind down with calming activities like taking a bath, reading, or gentle stretching before sleep. 
  • Limit screen time: Try to avoid screens (phones, tablets, TV) two to three hours before bedtime. 

6. Spend time with family and friends 

Connecting with loved ones can take your mind off your upcoming test and help you relax before an exam. It’s a great way to take a break from IELTS preparation and enjoy yourself.  

Your friends and family can also support you emotionally and remind you to stay positive. Their encouragement can help you stay calm and balanced as you approach the test day. 

7. Avoid last-minute cramming

While it may seem tempting, trying to cram before the test can make you more nervous and you’re less likely to remember what you’ve studied.

Let’s say you’ve been working on improving your grammar for IELTS. Trying to rush through one last look at the difference between verb tenses isn’t going to make a big difference on the morning of your test. 

Instead, plan a review of what you’ve studied on the days before the test. This way, you can cover everything you need to know in advance. You’ll feel more relaxed knowing you've done your best to prepare. 

8. Spend time in nature 

Nature calms your mind and reduces stress. Before your test, take a quick break in a green space, like a park or garden. If that’s not available, find a quiet spot near some trees, or even just look out of a window at some greenery.

Just a few minutes of being outdoors can help clear your thoughts and ease your nerves, helping you approach the test with a calm and focused mind. 

9. Listen to soothing music

If you’re wondering how to relax before an exam, listening to calming music can be a great way to ease your nerves. Pick instrumental tunes or sounds from nature like ocean waves or gentle rain.

Use headphones to avoid distractions and listen calmly to the music. You can also create a playlist of your favourite calming tracks in advance so they're ready to go when you need it.

Take short breaks during study sessions to listen to this music or have it on in the background as you prepare for IELTS. 

10. Visualise success and positive outcomes 

Visualising success trains your mind to focus on positive outcomes rather than dwelling on potential failures. 

Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths to relax. Now, imagine yourself in the testing room, feeling calm and confident. Picture yourself answering questions with ease and succeeding. Visualise the moment you receive your test results and the satisfaction of doing well.

Focus on the positive feelings of accomplishment and remember your reasons for taking the IELTS test. With every visualisation, you're one step closer to turning your test-day aspirations into a reality.

These tips can help if you’ve been struggling with how to relax before an exam. Anxiety can affect your performance on test day and your IELTS score, but by following these tips on how to relax, you’ll wake up on test day feeling calm and confident! 

Book your IELTS test with the British Council