This is a fairly common dream of students, college graduates particularly, the dream often following them throughout life. Thus a staid professor, or lawyer, or doctor, etc., dreams that he is back at college, being quizzed, and very anxious because he does not know the answers to the questions asked, him. While he is uneasy, some one answers for him. In some instances the dreamer realizes that something is wrong; for example, he realizes that he is old, that he has graduated, etc. The dream thus causes mental confusion; from personal experience I can attest that these dreams are painful. Sometimes, especially if the same dream has been dreamed shortly before, the dreamer will find release by the memory of the previous dream coming to consciousness. In a dream which has recently come to the writer's notice, the dreamer thought that she was back at grammar school, and was unable to answer the questions put by the teacher. Then came the remembrance that such a scene occurred only a short time before, and that it proved to be a dream. This produced relief. The next dream, of the same night, was suggested by the school scene, and dealt with childhood schoolmates.
The examination dream is variously explained. It is possibly due to some physical or external stimulus which is marked enough to cause an impression on sleeping consciousness which commands attention. Conscionsness wonders what may be the cause of the impression. The query of the mind is then associated with an occasion when questions have been asked the individual ; this brings up the memory of school days, especially to those who have taken school life more or less seriously. The confusion in the dream is attributable to the mixing of an early memory with an older one; thus, while one is back at school and being quizzed, the memory that one has already graduated crowds into the picture.
Freud1 states that the examination dream occurs only to those who have passed their examinations. It is instigated by some task which one has to do on the morrow, over which there is some anxiety. I have found this true in many instances. The dream seeks out some period of the past which has caused anxiety, but which has been weathered successfully; for those who have gone to college, examinations have caused much concern. The dream is supposed to say symbolically that there is no need to worry about the morrow, that its difficulty will be passed successfully like the difficulty in the past.