Center for Academic Success

Managing Test Anxiety

Anxiety about test taking is quite normal among students. Reducing distress isn't always easy, but employing some time-honored techniques for preparation and test day can help one overcome fear and do one's best.

Recognition

Listen to your body and figure out what you are feeling anxious about. If your anxiousness is a result of lack of preparation, then that is a rational response. If, however, you have adequately prepared for your exam and still feel panicky, your response may stem from something other than the testing situation itself.

Preparation

The best tool in test anxiety management is preparation. Try to avoid last minute study for an exam. It will be impossible to master a great deal of material immediately before a test. Review lecture notes, text and any study guides. Think about what questions might be asked and try to answer them.

Attitude

Your frame of mind concerning an exam can have an affect on how well you do on the exam. For instance, if you're thinking self-defeating thoughts (i.e. I can't do this), this will likely impair your performance and lead to even more anxious feelings. Remember that a test is only that - ONE TEST. There will be others on which to base your final grade. And try not to overemphasize the importance of the grade. Your self worth is not based upon a letter grade.

Physical Needs

It is the case that students sometimes neglect their physical needs when preparing for an exam. Remember to maintain good eating and sleeping habits. A hungry, tired student will probably not do as well on an exam as a rested, well fed one. Get plenty of exercise; and once you have adequately prepared for your exam, do something relaxing!

Test Day

  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, and nicotine. An excess of any of these stimulants sets off a process that can result in rapid fluctuations of sugar levels, which in turn produce symptoms of anxiety and panic (rapid pulse, sweaty palms, etc.)
  • Arrive at the test location early. This will give you a chance to pick a seat location away from distractions.
  • When you receive the exam, first review the entire test. Be sure to thoroughly read the directions twice.
  • Do not rush through the exam. Wear a watch and check frequently as you pace yourself through the test.
  • Concentrate on the sections of the exam you can answer well. Answer questions you know first and then return and work on the questions you're not sure about.
  • If you feel yourself becoming panicky during the exam take a slow, deep breath. Focus briefly just on breathing from your diaphragm. If you begin to have negative thoughts about your ability to handle the exam--STOP and deal with controlling your thoughts. Replace negative statements with positive ones. Instead of "I don't know any of this," tell yourself, "I am prepared to do my best on this exam." You may find it helpful to distract yourself by breaking your pencil lead and then stopping to sharpen it.

These are just a few tips to help you manage test anxiety. If you would like more information please contact the Center for Academic Success at 863-1286.