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Test Anxiety

Do you have test anxiety? Well, let’s see….

  •  Do you feel really nervous about a test? Maybe even to the point that you forget every thing you knew before walking into the test?
  • Do you not do your best on tests and miss questions you know the answer to?
  • Does your stomach get tight, or upset before a test?
  • Do your hands get cold and sweaty?
  • Headaches?
  • Difficulty sleeping before a test?
  • When you take a test does your mind start to race, or become dull, so that you can’t think clearly?
  • Do you forget material you studied and learned only to remember it again when the test is over?
  • Do you over-analyze questions, see too many possibilities, and make questions harder than they are?
  • Do you make careless mistakes on a test, when you know better?


If you thought any of those sounded like you, then you may have test anxiety!  And you are not alone. Test anxiety is fairly common among students, and fortunately there’s a lot of methods you can use on your own to decrease your anxiety level.  You don’t want to get rid of anxiety completely though, a little anxiety will help you keep on track and perform your best.  But healthy levels of anxiety do not interfere with your ability to perform your best on a test.  Here’s some easy ways to decrease test anxiety:

  •  Make sure you are prepared for the exam. Attend your classes, know class expectation and exam dates. Study as you go, rather than cramming for the exam. Cramming can leave you feeling unprepared, increasing your anxiety.
  • Develop healthy study habits. Study in an environment that is calm and allows you to concentrate. Research shows you will be more successful if you test in the same type of environment you study in…since you can’t take the test in your room, why study there?  Find an empty classroom, go to the library or anywhere on campus with the same feel as where you will be testing.
  • Use memory methods for retaining information: make flashcards, rhymes, acronyms or acrostics.
  • Acronym are a combination of letters into a word, i.e. SADD = Students Against Destructive Decisions.
  • Acrostics are sentences made of words who initial letters are memory cues, i.e. Never Eat Soggy Wheaties is an acrostic for the directions North, East, South and West.
  • Take care of yourself! Make sure you are well-rested and eat healthy foods before a test. Hungry and tired students will not perform up to their potential. If you are tense before a test, exercise! This will alleviate some tension and get you ready for the day.
  • Take practice exams. And do them in the format of the test! If your test is timed, then your practice exam should be as well. If you test is essay, then your practice exam should be essay too.
  • Increase your self-confidence! Students who experience test-anxiety tend to participate in negative self-talk. Common negative statements are “I always mess up on tests”, “These are all trick questions”, “Everyone in this class is smarter and faster than I am”. Replace those negative thoughts with true positive thoughts, and then repeat the positive statements routinely to increase self-confidence. And don’t worry about how fast other people finish their tests… don’t know they had the correct answers!
  • During the test, don’t dwell on items. If you go blank on a question, move along to the next one. Odds are, the answer will come to you before the test is over!
  • Chew gum (if it’s allowed). Chewing gum can help to alleviate stress and provide a health distraction.
  • On multiple choice tests, don’t look for patterns in the answers or think you have answered ‘C’ too many times. Make sure you read all the choices before choosing your answer!
  • On essay tests, underline important items that appear in the test question. And outline your answer before you write it to help provide direction and clarity in your response.

Remember, test anxiety is very common! If you have tried the above methods and you are still experiencing anxiety that is interfering with your ability to test, please call, email, or stop by the counseling office on your campus to make an appointment to get further assistance.