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Tips to Beat Test Anxiety

Before the Test

  • Know the Material

  • Prepare well in advance

  • Study the coursework so you are 125% sure of it

    • Keep up with your reading and attend every class

    • Get a peer educator or friend to quiz you if needed

    • Meet with your instructor during office hours

  • When doing homework, do several problems before checking the answers or include even problems in each assignment

  • During review, work different problems rather than the same problem many times

    • Work through an old exam in order to practice use of time and to get exposure to exam-type problems.  If exams aren’t available, ask your instructor what type of exam you will take (multiple choice, essay, true/false, etc.)

  • Don’t cram on the day of the exam (or the night before)—cramming will add to your anxiety, and does more to confuse students than help!

Know the Location

  • If you are not taking the exam in your classroom, visit the new location ahead of time to become more familiar with it

  • Do homework there—associate the room with your test topic

  • Is the room warm or cold?  How should you dress for the exam? (layers are best)

  • Notice any distractions so you will be able to eliminate as many of them as possible

Right before the exam

  • Get happy.  The happier you can feel when you are entering the exam room, the better you will score

  • Monitor negative thoughts.  If you enter the room with a negative outlook, you can guarantee anxiety and/or failure

  • Don’t cram.  Last minute cramming will raise anxiety levels

  • Don’t go without sleep the night before (though 4 or 5 hours may be enough)

  • Stop studying an hour or so before the test, relax, and compose yourself

  • Keep your mind on showing how much you know

  • Forget about the brightest student in class

During the Test

  • Physical Location

    • Sit in the front row in the corner, or turn your desk to face a wall, so you can’t see the rest of the class

    • Sit in a seat you like (and can feel comfortable in)

    • Wear ear plugs (inform your instructor you are doing so in case directions are given after the test begins)

    • Make sure you can see a clock (or your watch)

  • After you are handed the exam, but before you begin working on it

    • Consider how good you would feel if you received an A on the exam

    • Read all instructions.  If they do not make sense, ask the instructor for assistance

    • Check point allocation—which sections are worth more?

  • Budget your time.  Based on the time you have to take the exam and the number of sections, how much time can you spend on each item?

Taking the test

  • Start with the first problem, then move to the second, ignoring the remainder of the exam.  Take it one step at a time instead of thinking about the entire exam at once.

  • If stuck on any problem, move on to the next problem to ensure efficient use of time early in the exam.  Circle the number, and make sure you come back to it in the end!

  • There are usually no surprises. Consider how the problems might relate to the material that has been studied.

  • Your first hunch is usually the best—go with your gut!!!

  • Leave nothing blank—even if you have to guess (but please use an educated guess)

  • Use (or create) BREAK TIME during the test to relieve anxiety. Count erasers or chalk or say the alphabet. Anything that has a beginning and an end and takes less than 15 seconds will also help. Concentration must be absolute.  

After the Test

  • Find a way to relax.  Chat with friends, exercise, vegetate—do what you need to do to relax!

  • When you get the test, go over it.  On which sections did you do well?  Which could you have done better?  Consider making an appointment with someone in Learning Support Services to help you analyze the exam.