Anxiety is normal.

Feeling anxious in response to a perceived threat is a normal 

This page provides some basic information on understanding anxiety as a natural and sometimes helpful process, but that this is not the only process that takes place in our brain.  It is important to be aware of  (and listen to) the other thoughts and processes that take place in our brains.  

Understanding anxiety as a normal brain process can be helpful in helping us manage these difficult emotions, or helping those around us manage these emotions.  This could relate to anxiety around assessments or exams, around friendships, life changes or anything else that might result in anxious feelings.  We find that a helpful way to learn about this is by using a variation of the model from the bestselling book “The Chimp Paradox”.  This is a model we often use when teaching our pupils about anxiety or helping them through difficult times.


This short Video will give you an overview of the “Chip Paradox” model.  A first step in understanding this model is to think about the relationship between the chimp (emotional thinking) and the human (logical thinking), and getting to recognise these ‘inner voices’.

Exam Anxiety

It is normal to feel a little anxious prior to exams and learning about these feelings and how to manage them is as important as any subject specific learning.  It can be helpful to separate our emotional responses/thinking from our logical responses/thinking.  Pupils know this difference as ‘chimp thinking vs. human thinking’.

The emotional response is always fast, first and often loud.

The logical response is slow, second and often quiet.

An emotional response is often a reaction to feeling threatened and may make us feel like we want to ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ (an angry response, wanting to run away, or feeling that if we stop and ignore the perceived threat will go away!)

When we feel like this, taking time to listen to our logical thinking is worthwhile, and helpful in deciding if our emotional thinking is helpful or unhelpful in any given situation.

Exam Related Emotional Thinking
Fast and First
Responds to a perceived threat
Sometimes helpful – sometimes unhelpful
Fight – Flight – Freeze Reactions
•  “I am not going to do very well”

•  “I will never remember all the things I need to know”

•  “I am not going to do as well as my friends”

Exam Related Logical Thinking
Slow and Second
Often quiet
Evaluates perceived threats
Balanced Responses
•  “This will help me to know what I am good at and what I can do to improve”

•  “While I might not be able to remember everything, I can have a good attempt”.

•   “My job is not to beat my friends in an exam, it is just to do my best”.



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