How to pass your hypnotherapy exams

Until recently, many hypnotherapy courses worked on a ‘continuous assessment’ principle, but the Training Standards which came into force in 2019 say that exams must be held. This means that some students may be in territory they haven’t visited since school, faced with exams for the first time in years. So, how can you keep the nerves to a minimum and sail through?

Do all hypnotherapy schools run exams?

No, since the regulations that apply to hypnotherapy and hypnotherapy training in the UK are voluntary, some people choose to train and work outside of them. And some professional bodies allowed schools to elect to retain their accreditation based on an earlier version of the Training Standards which doesn’t require this kind of testing. Students from these schools are not automatically eligible for registration with the CNHC, so if that is important to you, check before signing up for a course.

(If you’re unclear about all this voluntary regulation stuff, CNHC etc, we have a free ebook called 'How to be a hypnotherapist' which explains it. Send for it HERE.)

However, all schools working with the latest version of the Training Standards are bound by their requirements which state very clearly that the assessment process should include
‘case studies …. plus coursework (which may include research, essays etc) and examination (practical and theoretical)’ [Paragraph 9.2]
The exact format of those exams is left to the individual schools to decide but we all know that exam is a ‘four-letter word’, and can hike up your stress levels without much effort whatever format the testing takes.

Stress and exams

If you’ve been studying hypnotherapy you will know quite a lot about the effects of stress and anxiety but let’s do a brief recap here. You might experience:

  • difficulties with executive functions (planning, decision-making, organisation etc)
  • difficulties with concentrating, remembering and understanding information
  • muscle tension and headaches
  • sleep disturbances 
  • digestive system upsets
  • irritability about things that normally wouldn’t normally bother you
  • feelings of anxiety or panic (especially when you think about the exams)
  • doubts about your ability to pass, general lack of confidence

As you have probably grown used to telling clients, this is due to the stress response which developed to keep us safe in times of danger. Unfortunately, your brain classes exams as a danger and reacts as it would to a man-eating tiger, even though the most helpful response in an exam is pretty much the opposite to ‘fight or flight’. You need to be organised, calm, still, remember things, plan, and focus.

Exam tips for hypnotherapy students

Your preparation (and what helps on the day) will depend to some extent on what format your school has chosen to use for their exams, but here are some ideas to get you started.

Before the exams

  • Be proactive about your stress levels. Consider offering yourself as a case study (for stress generally or exam nerves) to another student in your class.
  • Revisit your class notes and take some of the very good advice you would give a client!
  • Look at all the elements of your lifestyle that can aggravate stress and anxiety: diet, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, exercise, self-care etc and make sure you are making the best decisions about them you can.
  • Make sure you get the best night’s sleep you can, especially in the week or so before the event – pulling an ‘all-nighter’ to re-read your notes the night before the exam is rarely the best approach!
  • Organise a realistic revision and practice schedule which caters to your preferred ways of learning – do you like to re-read your notes, hear them (record them or try reading aloud), discuss topics with other students, or get some extra hours in with clients to go through the techniques?
  • Get someone to help you sort out this schedule if you are struggling to do it yourself.
  • Studying for around 30-45 minutes at a time is usually best, then take a short break before getting back to it.
  • Don’t go it alone – find another student, friend or a family member who can use the notes to ask you questions, or just offer morale-boosting support when you need it.
  • Listen to relaxation audios! There are plenty of free ones about.
  • Use affirmations, which will help shape your expectations into more positive thinking. Keep telling yourself that your trainers want to showcase your knowledge, not trick you into failing.
  • Ask for a practice paper or past paper if one is available, or at least make sure that you know exactly what to expect and what will be required of you.
  • Speak to your tutor for advice if you really feel you aren’t coping.

On the day

  • Focus on being the best therapist you can be, don’t compare yourself with others in the class.
  • Arrive in good time, so you’re not flustered by rushing.
  • Use breathing exercises and other calming techniques you’ve been taught before and during the exam if you feel the anxiety rising.
  • Pace yourself so you have time to answer all the questions.
  • On written papers, read the questions carefully so you answer exactly what is being asked.
  • If you find a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t panic, just move on. Answer the ones you know first, then divide up what time you have left at the end to deal with the trickier ones.

Facing exams for the first time in ages can be a daunting thought. But with a bit of planning and preparation, you can pass and even do well – then you will be off on your new career and probably even helping other people with stress around exams!


Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
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