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Quick Tips That Help To Overcome Test Anxiety

Updated on August 24, 2014

Take Control of Test Anxiety

You are not alone if you feel test anxiety. At one point in life most people experience test anxiety. College is no different as students are hoping to better their lives through education; test anxiety is likely to prowl.

Being a little nervous is natural physical response, which actually triggers your body to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is a chemical naturally released by the body known as the fight or flight response. Adrenaline can negatively affect your ability to take a test since the fight or flight response takes blood away from the brain and sends it into the body in preparation for danger.

However, knowing a few tricks to keep the anxiety at bay when taking a test can allow your brain to function and access the needed material to be successful.

What does test anxiety feel like?

Test anxiety is a result of built up fears related to performance. This is not created by the test but by the person taking the test. Therefore, by recognizing the signs one can learn to overcome the doom of test anxiety. Test anxiety has the ability to affect the person physically, emotionally and cognitively.

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Faintness
  • Feeling hot or cold

Emotional Symptoms

  • Easy to tear up
  • Feeling irritable
  • Easily frustrated

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Blank mind
  • Racing thoughts
  • Questioning your answers
  • Thinking about escaping the test all together.

How to control test anxiety?

Test anxiety as well as other anxiety can be monitored and managed. Increasing your awareness to the possibility of being anxious is the first step. However, recognizing that being anxious when your future is on the line is essential. The most anxiety provoking time in school is during mid-term and final exams. This is due to the desire to pass a class and get one step closer to a perceived goal.

Take a deep breath before the test
Take a deep breath before the test | Source

Before The Test

1. Be realistic. Remind yourself that your entire future doesn't depend on this exam - there will be other exams and other courses. One test doesn’t determine your talents and abilities as a successful student.

2. Be prepared. Ask your instructor for practice tests or additional homework problems. Participate in tutoring sessions. Do an error analysis of your typical mistakes on your homework and practice tests. Work out lots of difficult questions dealing with tough topics in a random order. FYI – cramming is a culprit of test anxiety.

3. Think of past successes. Think of a challenging course in which you struggled, but eventually pulled through. Tell yourself that if you did well in the past, then you can do well now. Remove negative self-talk and only focus on the positive.

4. Be physically prepared. The night before the exam, organize everything you will need. Get a good night’s sleep two nights prior to the exam. Watch caffeine, alcohol, and sugar intake. Eat protein, limit high fat and high carbohydrate foods, and drink water. Take walks around the block for study breaks.

5. Imagine success. Play the entire "tape" in your mind – from the moment you wake up on the day of the exam to the moment you finish the exam. Self-fulfilling prophecy does exist! A self-fulfilling prophecy is the belief that something is true and thereby one is more likely to accomplish that goal.

6. Come with a positive attitude. Don’t come too early or too late. Avoid talking to other students about the test as that may trigger unforeseen anxiety. Refrain from flipping through your notes or books – relax instead, you have already studied and are completely prepared. Pick a seat that has few distractions – not in the back of the class, near the door or near the teacher’s desk. Bring a snack and some water just in case. Enter class with a smile. Remind yourself that you studied hard and will do your best I am going to do well on this test today!

During The Test

1. Use learned test strategies. Read the directions slowly, circle significant words, jot down notes in the margins or do an “information dump” on the back of a test page, and start with the simplest questions. An information dump includes writing down everything you can remember about the test subject as soon as the test starts and before reading any questions about the test. Once you have written down all the bottled up information then begin reading the first question. Refer to your notes when needed. Doodle if you need to on your exam as long as your answers are clear, but do not get sidetracked by this so that you can finish the test on time.

2. Use "thought stopping" practices. If you find that you are worrying, comparing yourself to your peers, or thinking about your ultimate test score – STOP IT. Remind yourself that you will be successful.

3. Calm yourself throughout the test. If you get overwhelmed, turn your paper over and breathe deeply. Stretch your arms and legs in your seat or get up. Tense and relax muscles in an attempt to reduce muscle strain. Use positive “self-talk”. Daydream and then refocus. Take a drink of water or a bite of your snack. If your instructor permits, leave the room for a moment. If the need arises clarify questions if the teacher permits it.

4. Think of the test as a game. Your goal is to collect as many points as you can in the time available. You are in control of the test. This is a battle that you claim victory!

5. Be ready for the "curve balls." When faced with unexpected questions, just relax! Don’t dwell on a question too long. Simply skip it for now, put a mark off to the side of it so you remember and then return to it later to make an attempt. Remember that you can miss a few questions and still get a great grade.

6. Take one step at a time. Break your test taking into small, manageable parts. When you finish a portion, give yourself a pat on the back and move to the next portion. Focus on the questions you find the easiest to answer – bounce around – that’s ok!

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After The Test

1. Celebrate! Take a night off and catch a good movie or have dinner out with friends – regardless of how well you think you did. At this point, you can’t change your test performance so you need to move forward, not punish yourself, and engage in positive self-care activities.

2. Talk to your instructor. Let him/her know that you experience test anxiety – perhaps you will get additional pointers or help. Bring up ideas of taking your test in a different room (ex. academic testing center), completing a second exam for an average score, or exploring other options to evaluate your knowledge that doesn’t rely on testing. Conversations with your instructor also allow him/her to know your desire and intent to do well in the course.

3. Think of how to improve for next time. Think about whether or not you need additional study strategies, memory techniques, time management tips, or learning style assessment. Your test anxiety could stem from lack of information or focus on these preparatory areas.

4. Try out new techniques. Keep track of what helps lower your anxiety and implement those methods into future tests. Throw out what doesn’t work for you and only focus on helpful resources.


If you are experiencing test anxiety that can not be calmed through enhanced test preparation, test taking strategies, and relaxation tips, then you may need to seek assistance from a professional to help address your anxiety.

Take a deep breath – You can do it!


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    • elayne001 profile image


      4 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I used to have test anxiety very bad in school. It affected my scores until I could control it, which took many years. Deep breathing and stretching seemed to help. Then I would reward myself if I did well. Good hub.


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