September 28, 2015

Combating Test Anxiety While You Are Taking the Test

When test anxiety sets in while you are taking a test, it can be very difficult to overcome. Even if you are well prepared and know the material, it can be difficult to recall the appropriate information when you are faced with the symptoms of test anxiety.

However, there are some things you can do as you begin your test and while you are taking the test that can help keep test anxiety at bay. Most of the strategies are fairly simple and can be easily integrated into your test taking routine.

  1. If you start to feel anxious, take a few deep, slow breaths and count them as you breathe. Five to ten is a good number – enough to bring plenty of calming oxygen into your system but not enough to cause you to hyperventilate.
  2. Read instructions and questions thoroughly before writing your answer. Realizing halfway through your answer that you are answering the wrong question or not properly following directions can understandably increase your anxiety levels.
  3. Take a short sanity break every ten or fifteen minutes. Look away from the paper, take a few breaths, stretch your back and legs, and reorient yourself before continuing. If possible, get up to take a quick walk or get a drink of water.
  4. Skip questions you do not know the answers to. You can always come back to them later. Using this strategy is beneficial because you are less likely to be short on time, which can cause you to rush through other questions that you do know, thereby losing points farther along in the test.
  5. If you find yourself freezing up, pause and try to clear the tension, anxiety and negative thoughts from your mind. Use breathing techniques or even a mantra to focus and calm your thoughts.
  6. Do not focus on what other people in the class are doing. Test anxiety can result from noticing that others are working much faster than you or have already turned in their answers. Assuming they are doing better than you can only hurt your chances of doing your best. As far as you know, they might have given up and turned in incomplete answer sheets.

Although test anxiety can be frustrating, it does not have to ruin your chances of getting a good grade. Be sure you go into your testing period well-rested, well-nourished and with a solid knowledge of the subject. Then, use these tips and tricks to keep yourself focused, relaxed and anxiety free.

Overcoming Test Anxiety (PDF)

Creative Strategies for Reducing Test Anxiety (PDF)