Managing Test Anxiety

Test anxiety can happen to anyone, and it affects some people more than others. Some students sit down for a test and have their mind go completely blank and their stomach twist into knots. Test anxiety can occur for many reasons—fear of failure, past problems with tests, or even genetics. There are many different ways to cope with and overcome test anxiety- you can start before the exam.

  • Before exams:
    • Prepare yourself. This may seem obvious, but sometimes students confuse familiarity with deeper learning. Give yourself plenty of time to study and don’t wait until the last minute to try to cram. Set up a routine of good study techniques that work for you.
    • Get enough sleep. Staying up all night to cram, or a lack of sleep in general can have adverse effects on memory and overall well-being. Being exhausted will also affect your performance on the exam.
    • Eat well. This ensures that you have the energy to study and take the test.
    • Even light exercise during study breaks helps your mind focus on something other than schoolwork. Exercise also helps manage stress.
    • Be confident! Negative, irrational thinking might shake your confidence and self-esteem.
  • During the test:
    • Breathe! If you feel anxious, take a few slow, deep breaths.
    • Preview the test. Look through all sections and consider your time. Try to divide your time wisely.
    • Don’t rush. Take your time and make sure you check all answers before you turn in the test.
    • Focus on the test. Pay attention to what you are doing in the moment. Don’t start making assumptions about your grade or thinking that you are going to fail.
  • After the test:
    • Keep breathing. If you remain anxious and worried about your score, try to take more deep breaths.
    • Discussing test answers. Sometimes discussing test answers with peers can cause more anxiety if your answers don’t match. If you think talking to peers will cause more stress than relief, try to avoid it. Remember, your classmates don’t always have the correct answers.
    • Don’t globalize. Failing a test, or even getting a lower grade than you expect, does not mean you are a bad student or a bad person. There are ways to improve for next time.

If you find yourself struggling with test anxiety, or are having difficulty preparing for exams, SPU’s Center for Learning, located in Lower Moyer Hall, as many resources and staff to help you.


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