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Why so many people have a dream in which they are just about to take a mandatory school exam and they're totally unprepared, or they've missed it because show up in the wrong day, or the exam is on the very next morning, etc.; and get extremely nervous and anxious, up to the point of waking up panting and taking several minutes to figure out it was all just a dream?

Or maybe they're only being whipped... that's so reassuring!

Is there a technical term denoting this kind of dreams? What's their nature? Is it specific to the Western world/culture? Are there other examples of it?

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    $\begingroup$ I think it's also worth asking: Are these "exam dreams" actually prevalent? From research on concepts, we know that what we consider prototypical isn't necessarily frequent. So even though the "mandatory exam dream" might be the prototypical nightmare (e.g., as shown on TV shows), it's not necessarily a common nightmare. $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    Feb 21, 2015 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it contains an unstated assumption (mandatory school exams are common nightmare settings) that makes the question too specific to answer. Would retract close vote if question was edited to be more generally about nightmares or performance-related nightmares. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2015 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ ... the very fact that there are parodies of it doesn't make it common enough? (Cf. the link). Then, sure, if you think one has to research the question into more generic performance-related nightmares, I'd like to hear some other example or be pointed at some extra literature... $\endgroup$
    – peppe
    Mar 25, 2015 at 17:37

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Yes this kind of dreams are commonly called nightmares. The reason we experience nightmares is to prepare us for threats in the real life.

"A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills."

http://www.unil.ch/files/live//sites/ln/files/shared/Revonsuo_1.pdf

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they're definitely nightmares, but how come that this particular is so common even in adults, who haven't taken an examination for decades? Is it as common in other cultures apart from the Western one? $\endgroup$
    – peppe
    Feb 17, 2015 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any reference that these types of nightmares are common among adults? If that was indeed the case one possible explanation would be that in the Western culture meeting deadlines is more important than in other cultures. So the fear of missing a deadline is a recurrent theme. Maybe because the importance of deadline is at its all time high during education our brain pictures this worst-case scenario - as with nightmares in general, which are not always truthful and maybe even grossly exaggerated.However though I can't provide any links for these claims they are just a speculation $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2015 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have scientific literature (after all that's why I'm asking here :)), but a quick Google reveals articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-01-06/news/… ; psychmechanics.com/2015/02/… ; psychiclibrary.com/beyondBooks/exam-dreams ; dreammoods.com/commondreams/test-dreams.html . $\endgroup$
    – peppe
    Feb 21, 2015 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like speculation to me. At best. $\endgroup$
    – Bliebervik
    Apr 24, 2015 at 19:12

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