Test Anxiety

Poor test preparation is the leading cause of test anxiety. However, some people still experience test anxiety even when they have thoroughly studied the test material. The following suggestions are designed to reduce the level of anxiety you experience during test-taking situations which will allow you to perform your best.

Useful Techniques Prior To Taking Exams

  1. Relaxation - Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Focus your attention on your breathing. Take several slow, deep breaths by inhaling to the count of 5 and exhaling to the count of 5. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can have a dramatic calming effect.

  2. Imagery - Set the stage for success by visualizing yourself taking the test in a calm, confident manner. Close your eyes and picture yourself walking into the room where the exam will be given and taking your seat. Hear the sounds of students talking, backpack zippers opening, and any other sounds that are common prior to the start of the exam. Next, hear the teacher give the final instructions as the tests are passed out. Feel the texture of the paper and the pencil in your hand. See yourself answering the questions successfully. Finally, imagine yourself turning in the test when you are completed and walking from the room knowing that you did your best.

    NOTE: The imagery exercise should be personalized to your unique experience. The key is to involve as many senses as you can and see yourself relaxed and confident. If you begin to feel anxious during the visualization use some deep breathing to relax yourself and then continue. As you practice this technique often it will become more vivid.

  3. Think Positive - Your thinking or "self-talk" has a tremendous influence on your feelings. Test anxiety is often caused by negative self-talk such as: "I'm going to fail. I never do well on tests." "I'm nervous so that must mean that I'm not prepared." "I'm a horrible student." "The other students are so much smarter than me. I can't compete in the classroom like I can in athletics." Counteracting these types of statements with positive self-talk can greatly reduce your test anxiety. Some examples include: "I'm ready for this exam. I've gone to class, read the text, studied my notes, and know the material. Thus, I will succeed." "It is likely that I will miss a few, but I refuse to let that stress me out." "I am a good person and no matter what happens on this test that fact will not change." "I am a confident, successful person and can succeed in this class." "I love challenges and respond well under pressure." Develop some positive statements that work well for you and use them to reduce your anxiety.

For the best results combine all three techniques described above. If you are still experiencing test anxiety, talk with your advisor for further assistance.

General Tips

  • Prepare yourself mentally by attending class, reading the text, completing the homework, and studying the material thoroughly.
  • Prepare yourself physically by getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise.
  • Expect some anxiety. It is normal to experience some anxiety prior to an athletic competition. However, too much or too little anxiety will likely hinder your performance. The same is true for major exams.
  • Arrive early for the exam to avoid the stress associated with last minute rushing around.
  • Find a comfortable seat with the fewest distractions.
  • Avoid last-minute discussions about the test material with classmates. They usually lead to panic and rarely provide useful information.
  • Pace yourself during the test by staying aware of the time. Do not worry too much about test items you know you have missed.