Reducing Test Anxiety

It is perfectly natural to feel some anxiety when preparing for and taking a test. In fact, a little anxiety can jump start your studying and keep you motivated. However, too much anxiety can interfere with your studying. You may have difficulty learning and remembering what you need to know for the test. Further, too much anxiety may lower your performance during the test. You may have difficulty demonstrating what you know during the test.

Twenty things you can do to reduce test anxiety.

  1. Use good study techniques to gain mastery of the material that will be covered on the test. This mastery will help you approach the test with confidence rather than with excessive anxiety. Employ the studying tips we provide at Study Habits.
  2. Maintain a positive attitude as you study. Think about doing well, not failing. Think of the test as an opportunity to show how much you have learned.
  3. Go into the test well rested and well fed. Get enough sleep the night before the test. Eat a light and nutritious meal before the test. Stay away from junk foods.
  4. Test Anxiety, Anxious ManStay relaxed during the test. If you become tense, close your eyes, take a long, slow breath, and then let it out slowly.
  5. Follow a plan for taking the test such as the DETER strategy we describe at A Strategy for Taking Tests. Don’t panic even if you find the test difficult. Stay with your plan!
  6. Don’t feel that you have to get everything right. You can get a high score even if you miss some questions.
  7. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine before the test. Caffeine can make you jittery.
  8. Don’t make more of the test than it’s worth. As important as a test might be, your entire future is not on the line.
  9. Think about what is causing you to be anxious. Often the cause is not rational and you can come up with a rational counter-thought.
  10. Think positive thoughts such as “I can do this” throughout the test.
  11. Learn all you can about what to expect on the test so you will feel ready to take it on.
  12. Don’t panic that you will not have enough time to complete the test. In most cases, tests are designed so they can be completed within the time allotted.
  13. Don’t arrive too early for the test. The anxiety expressed by other students can be contagious and add to your own.
  14. Don’t arrive late for the test. This will raise your anxiety and cause you to rush your answers and make careless errors.
  15. Focus on the test and ignore other things around you. Force yourself to not let your mind wander away from the test.
  16. Answer the questions that are easiest for you first. This will build your confidence for the other questions.
  17. Use guided imagery before the test to help you relax. Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this place.
  18. Don’t panic when other students start handing in their tests. There is no reward for finishing early. Just work at your own pace.
  19. Once you finish the test and hand it in, don’t worry about it. There is nothing more you can do until the graded test is returned to you. Turn your attention and effort to new assignments and tests.
  20. When the graded test is returned to you, analyze it to see how you could have done better. Learn from your mistakes and from what you did well. This will help you be better prepared and less anxious for the next test.

To do well on a test, you must have mastery of the material the test covers. But you must also control any anxiety you may have in order to show what you know.