It was all a dream: Test-related nightmares are all too real for some college students

Danny Cozzi

Anyone can recall the heap of stress that comes with the pressures of studying for finals or writing a term paper.

For some students, that stress follows them into the abyss of sleep and the nightly REM cycle.

In the field of psychology, this particular nightmare is known as the “Exam Dream.”

The “Exam Dream” is a realistic nightmare in which you casually walk the familiar hallways into class. Upon being seated, suddenly you are unexpectedly handed the final exam, without so much as skimming the material once before the test.

Realizing the agony of the situation, the cold sweat of anxiety trickles down your forehead as you pick up your pencil and begin frantically filling in Scantron bubbles.

Typically, this realistic nightmare will strike during times of heavy stress, particularly for students during finals week or midterms. It may also occur “in approximation with having forgotten or being concerned about forgetting to do something important,” according to a 2009 Psychology Today article.

Freshman English major Kevin Malone recalls a similar nightmare from his years in junior high.

“I would walk into class and my teacher would tell me that we had a spelling test,” Malone said, “This always scared me because as a kid spelling was a subject that I struggled with.”

Malone said if he studied enough in his dream for the test, he would usually get a decent grade. If he didn’t, however, he would fail it.

Malone also remembers being handed surprise exams in his dreams.

“When I had dreams where I had a surprise test, I was very scared,” Malone said. “While I took the test I was usually freaking out.”

Malone isn’t alone with that dreadful dream.

Mallory Koppen, junior athletic training major, remembers her own dreams about her anatomy class from last semester.

“I had a dream that I was preparing for the final and when I went to sit for the lecture exam, everything on the test was in some sort of gibberish,” Koppen said, “I ended up just filling in random answers hoping it was right.”

Students, however, are not the only ones with said experience. Teachers, too, have fallen victim to the infamous nightmare.

Amy Glaves, an English Department teaching intern, has also dreamed of a similar situation.

“Dreams that I have had most recently usually deal with spending hours on a paper and then arriving to class with it not in my possession,” Glaves said.

Glaves said there were also previous dreams that were even more stressful.

“I remember one where I had to take a test on geometric proofs, Glaves said, “I had no clue how to go about answering the questions, and I started freaking out. It almost felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.”

There are some students, however, who haven’t been tortured by the same experience.

Freshman history major Mike Theodore said he’s never experienced such terrors in his sleep.

“I guess that’s because I never worry about grades,” Theodore said.

Layne Bennett, sophomore communicative disorders major, is also blessed without the horrors of the “Exam Dream.”

“I don’t think I have any dreams of exams and such,” Bennett said, “At least not that I can remember.”

Fortunately for these lucky ones, they can sleep without worry. But for those ill-fated students, the dreaded “Exam Dream” awaits. Be sure to study hard.