Mastering Test Anxiety

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


By Jessica Mink

Sweaty palms, racing thoughts, and fluttering butterflies in your stomach can be pesky side effects of test taking. Whether you’re in school or out in the “real world,” test anxiety is real, and it can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

The good news is that you are not alone. There are techniques you can use to master, or at least lessen, test anxiety both before and during test taking.


Before the test

Try a form of relaxation. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, or reading—it doesn’t really matter. You just want to get in a clear, focused headspace that will benefit you when it’s time to take your test. Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before your test. Do not stay up all night studying. The mind, like your your body, needs rest to function properly. Give it a break from the loads of information you’ve been feeding it the past days, weeks, or even months.

Hold off on the caffeine. You may think that coffee and Red Bull are the answer to your prayers, but this is not the case. Well, at least not on test day. Chances are you will already have nerves or jitters; caffeine will only heighten this sensation, especially in a high-pressured environment like a classroom or lecture hall. Do yourself a favor and reward yourself with a coffee or energy drink once you’ve handed in your exam.

During the exam

Take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before, but it actually works. Since rapid heartbeat is one of the most common symptoms of test anxiety, this is probably the easiest and quickest ways to alleviate the anxiety that surfaces around taking a test. Also, don’t be afraid to take a minute to yourself. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, put the pencil down and just sit quietly for a minute or two. This will allow you to collect your thoughts and re-focus, allowing you to perform at your best.

Challenge the negative thoughts. When it comes to taking tests, it’s not uncommon to have negative thoughts. Yes, maybe this test determines if you pass the class or become certified, or maybe you just really want that A. Either way, stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Your self-worth does not depend on a test grade. You studied, you memorized, you’re more than prepared, but somehow that negative voice creeps in your head convincing you otherwise. Do yourself a huge favor and combat the negative with positive. It might seem silly, but positive self-talk is key. Say, “I can do this. I know this material, I will remember everything I studied.” Acknowledge the negative self-talk, put it to the side and replace it with positive thoughts only.

Your mind goes blank, now what? Try your best not to freak out, even though this is our first reaction when we simply cannot remember that math formula or vocabulary definition. If this does happen during your test, just write anything down; anything and everything pertaining to that subject, just get it on the paper. Chances are this will jog your memory and hopefully recover the necessary information. If that doesn’t work, move on to another question and come back to it later. The answer might just come to you.

When it’s all said and done, a test doesn’t define you. That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary or nerve-wracking, however. Trust your instincts. If you have studied enough and employ some, or all, of the above tips, you are one step closer to relieving that dreaded test anxiety.

"Test Anxiety." Anxiety and Depression Association of America, edited by Mary Duckett, 2017, Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.