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Tips for Managing Test Anxiety

Updated on September 15, 2012

You walk into the classroom and your heart starts beating faster. Your palms are sweaty and you are suddenly afraid you have forgotten everything from the class. Your mind is completely blank and you are really scared of bombing this test!

Is that how you feel when you're about to take a test? I've felt that way before, and I've tutored many students who felt that way. It can be paralyzing, and that fear can definitely affect your performance on tests and in school.

So, how can you get past it? Here are some strategies that will help you understand what causes the anxiety and how to overcome it.


Be Prepared
Be Prepared | Source

What is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a fear of failure when taking a test or quiz, or testing your abilities in any way. Like performance anxiety, test anxiety has very real symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. Some sufferers even feel light headed or faint before or during a test.

Test anxiety has three main causes: fear of failure, past history of negative testing outcomes, and lack of preparation. Most people who suffer from test anxiety usually have a combination of these three causes.

Exam Anxiety
Exam Anxiety | Source

How to Reduce Anxiety

It is important to get a handle on test anxiety early - to understand why you are anxious and know how to handle it. Reducing test anxiety must start when you begin studying for a test, not just the day of the test.

Reducing test anxiety starts with preparation. When you first find out that you have a test coming up, make sure to find out exactly what information will be tested and what format the test will be (multiple choice, short answer, etc.). Take time to prepare, and schedule your study so that you learn a little of the material each day. This slow and steady approach helps reduce your anxiety, because you are tackling the information in small chunks.

On the day of the test, there are some ways to prepare before you actually start the exam. First, make sure you eat before the test so you aren't hungry (which can be a distraction during the test). Also, wear clothes that are comfortable and that you feel good wearing. Finally, if you have a choice, sit far away from distractions (windows, doors, people who tap pencils, etc.)

Test Taking Strategies

During the test, there are some ways that you can stay calm and keep moving through the test without increasing your anxiety. If you know how to take the test and you've prepared for the test, there really isn't much to worry about!

When you first receive the test:

  • Look over the entire test, if you can. Note what information is covered, and what sections will be the easiest.
  • Read the directions. If you don't understand them or have a question, ask it now. It pays to make sure you fully understand what you need to do.
  • If you can write on the test, or if you are given scrap paper, write down anything you think you may forget. This includes formulas, facts, names, etc. Write in the margins of the test if you are not given extra paper.

During the test:

  • Try to concentrate only on what you are doing. Don't worry about what anyone around you is doing. You are prepared, so who cares what they are doing?
  • Thoroughly read the directions for each section of the test as you go. Don't assume the directions are the same as on past assignments.
  • If possible, tackle the easiest sections first. This will get them out of the way and improve your confidence.
  • Try to relax - you've got this!
  • Use your energy wisely. If you get stuck on a question, and you are able to skip questions and go back, then mark it and leave it behind. Don't waste time and energy staring at a question that has you stumped. You can come back to it later.
  • If you did skip a question, look for clues to its answer in the other questions as you go along.
  • If you have time left, go back through the test, rereading the directions and guessing on any questions you couldn't answer. Remember, there is no reward for being the first one done! So take your time, review the test, and instead get the reward of a high score!

Jump for Joy!
Jump for Joy! | Source

Learn From Your Test Scores

When you get a test back, look it over and make sure you understand what you missed and why you missed it. Did you misunderstand the directions? Did you run out of time? Did you study the wrong information? Whatever it was, learn from it and you will know how to prepare next time.

Good luck on your next test!

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    • Amy Gillie profile image
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      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      NornsMercy - good luck on your exam! I do think half the battle is understanding why you are nervous and taking steps to help that. Then, let your knowledge shine through!

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 5 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Thanks for this! I'm going to be taking an exam in the next month and I'm freaking out! It feels nice to know I'm not alone :) I will try to employ these tips instead of being a nervous blob!

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks Melovy. I'm glad you found it useful. I like to consider clothing and other things outside of the actual test because, while they can add to your discomfort, they can also increase your spirits if you use them to your advantage!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      This is a very useful hub because so many people do get anxious before tests. I completely agree with your suggestion to do the easiest parts first: I found that to be incredibly useful as a teenager especially as my mind used to go blank for about 10 minutes. If I busied myself with easy stuff it helped me calm down and remember the rest.

      I also like your advice about comfortable clothing because this can be something that's easily overlooked.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Marcy - there is SO much testing now for US students. It's often hard to recognize the signs of anxiety, but they can be managed.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Alliemacb - thanks so much! I do think we sometimes assume low test grades are caused by lack of knowledge and preparation...but often it's the anxiety taking over.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I think we tend to forget how stressful those times were when we were kids. This is a very useful hub for parents of kids who face the constant testing we now have. Voted up!

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      I am going to share this with my students. I've always loved tests and never experienced anxiety so have been unable to empathise with them when they say they go to pieces on exam days. Your advice will be very useful. Voted up

    • Amy Gillie profile image
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      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Adjkp25 - I agree! I hate to see anxiety keep people from success. Thanks for the votes!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I liked the examples you gave to help test takers relax and do their best on the test. Stress and anxiety can be such a negative deterrent.

      Voted up and useful

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Kittyjj - thank you for sharing your story. Test anxiety is more common than most people realize. I hate to see it impair someone from showing what they really comprehend.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
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      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks Nettlemere. I didn't suffer from it much myself but I tutored many students who did. I do hope this helps.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Christine -thanks so much! What an excellent compliment!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Wow, lots of great information! Nicely done.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I was always lucky about not feeling too anxious before tests, but I real feel for some of the students where I work who get very distressed before tests. It's good to have this resource as a reference for tips to help them.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      I wish I had your tips for managing test anxiety years ago. I always had hard time to go to sleep the night before test. To be honest, I still have nightmares once in awhile even there isn't any test for me to take. I really don't like tests. Great hub with useful tips! Thank you for sharing! Voted up and useful.

    • Christine Miranda profile image

      Christine Miranda 5 years ago from My office.

      I love reading well written & organized hubs no matter what the topic. Great job. Voted up & useful!

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 5 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      Well done!