Test Anxiety

Test AnxietyDealing with Test Anxiety

The first step to help you deal with test anxiety is to clarify whether you suffer from anxiety related to taking tests, or whether you get anxious when taking tests because you have not prepared. In either case, appropriate preparation with be immensely helpful, but for those who truly suffer from “test anxiety,” the following section entitled “Anxiety Coping Strategies” will be particularly important.

Preparation Strategies

  • Be smart about how you study – avoid cramming! This is not the time to try to learn a great deal of material in a short amount of time. Develop a strategy for combining all the information presented over the semester, and then focus on mastering the main points.
  • Start preparing far enough in advance so that you are able to identify any areas you do not understand so that you can get the help you need.
  • Organize your time for studying. Try to pick times when you are not likely to be interrupted or distracted.
  • Make your study area comfortable and uncluttered.
  • Find a location where you are less likely to be interrupted or distracted. If you can’t find an ideal location, figure out a way to minimize disturbances and distractions (for example, if you have to study at home when the children are awake, arrange for another adult to take charge of the children to keep them from interrupting you.)
  • When studying, ask yourself what questions are likely to be asked and answer them by using ideas from lectures, textbooks, and handouts.
  • Avoid speaking with students or other people who express negativity and/or anxiety, or who will distract you from your preparation.
  • Have all the materials you will need for the test gathered together the night before the exam.


  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol (including caffeine – too much caffeine will keep you awake, but is likely to produce a state of jitteriness that will contribute to your anxiety and impair your ability to concentrate).
  • Exercise is useful for working off the physical effects of anxiety in the body, and is said to sharpen the mind.
  • Eat three healthy meals a day.
  • Get plenty of sleep, especially the night before the exam. Staying up late studying (or for any other reason) the night before the exam will hurt more than help.
  • Engage in activities that are relaxing to you.

Helpful Attitudes

  • Remind yourself that you have made a healthy choice to address your test anxiety and that you have done a good job preparing.
  • Visualize yourself being successful.
  • Stop negative thoughts and worrying. When you find your mind turning to these types of thoughts – literally hold your hand up and say “STOP! I have prepared and I am going to do fine.”
  • Stay relaxed and comfortable, but alert. If you find yourself getting anxious, concentrate on taking deep slow breaths (all the way down into your belly) and then slowly exhaling. See attached instructions for “Eliciting the Relaxation Response.”

Exam Day

  • Eat a healthy meal before the exam.
  • Recommended foods = fresh fruits and vegetables
    • Foods to avoid = processed foods, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk food, sugar, white flour products, foods with preservatives, and heavy spices.
  • Do something relaxing the hour before the test.
  • Try to arrive at the test location early so that you can relax and mentally prepare yourself. It may help to review your notes one final time, but do not cram – it will only increase your anxiety and may end up confusing you.
  • Avoid any classmates who generate anxiety and may upset your relaxed state of mind.
  • While waiting for the exam to begin, if you find your anxiety building use deep breathing and distract yourself by reading the newspaper, a magazine, or a book.

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