Grades and Exam Stress

Most people agree that university and post-secondary studies are vastly different from work done in grade school. For starters, your class size may have risen from about 30 to well over 100! The ability to have one-on-one time with the Professor or Instructor (or even the Teaching Assistant) can be very limited or maybe even in some cases – non-existent.

How you’re taught

The style of teaching has changed as well. Mostly lecture-style versus experiential learning may be a difficult adjustment for you. The sheer amount of work expected from you can be staggering. If you are also employed or have other commitments outside of school, it can feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all your projects and studying.

How you learn

How you learn and study changes too. You must be highly self-motivated to keep on top of your studies and workload. No one is checking to see if you completed your assignments or homework. You are an adult learner now and that means you‘re responsible for your own work. Research may be a new skill that you are expected to learn – and sometimes without much guidance.


Exams are longer than you may be used to, plentiful, and more difficult. Practical exams, which are often timed, can be very stressful and produce anxiety like you’ve never experienced in school before. Finals can leave you feeling drained and exhausted and may even begin a cycle of celebrating the end of exams with self-destructive behaviour that may lead you to make bad decisions with lasting consequences.


Pressure to perform well in school and on exams can feel impossible to live up to. Perhaps your parents have very high expectations for your grades, which can be made worse if they are paying for part or all or part of your tuition. Maybe the pressure you feel comes from your own personal expectations. Or you might be in a faculty or area of study that you really don’t want to be in – making everything so much worse and feeling overwhelming.

If you are experiencing exam and grade stress, and are feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to speak to a therapist. The therapists at Insight can help. We deal with:

Support is just a phone call away. Contact the team at Insight to book an appointment with a therapist.