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Test Anxiety

Test Anxiety

What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is a psychological condition that causes uneasiness or apprehension before, during or after an examination because of concern, worry or fear. Almost everyone experiences some anxiety before a big test. But some students find anxiety interferes with their learning and test taking to such an extent that their grades are seriously affected. While students may have the skills and knowledge to do very well on an exam, their excessive anxiety can impair their performance. Fortunately there are many different ways to gain control of your testing anxiety and keep it at a manageable level. Below are some helpful tips and more in-depth websites on the causes and techniques for taking control of your anxiety.

Simple steps to help control your anxiety

  • Get or design sample exams and take several practice exams. Time yourself to see if you can finish in the allotted time.

  • Get enough sleep for at least two nights before your exam.
  • Be well prepared for the test - study!
  • Don’t talk to friends about the exam material just before going into the exam.
  • Before taking your test, take a few moments to sit and write out exactly how you are feeling and why. You may do this on scratch paper once the test starts, in your dorm room, or in the hall way right before class starts. Studies have shown that a majority of college students who did this simple exercise experienced a significant decrease in their amount of anxiety while taking their test!
  • Circle or underline significant words in the question. Read carefully to avoid misinterpreting what is being asked.
  • When working out a problem, write down whatever you know. It might help you to figure out the problem and some teachers even give partial credit in recognition for what you know.
  • If you feel very anxious or even panicky in the test, take a few minutes time out and calm yourself down. Stretch your arms and legs and then relax them again. Do this a couple of times. Take a few slow deep breaths. Do some positive internal self-talk; say to yourself, “I will be OK, I can do this.” Then take your time and get back into the questions. 

Additional resources for test anxiety

  • For the Mental Health America site of Eastern Missouri and their college test anxiety tips - Click here
  • From, this link contains many more helpful links that may be more specific to your unique situation - Click here
  • York University provides a very helpful and in-depth website for preparing for Tests and Exams; including take home exams, essay exams, and dealing with concentration and anxiety - Click here
  • You may find that taking the time to physically relax your body before or even during a test helps you cope with your anxiety. UC's Counseling Center offers great resources for stress management and relaxation - Click here
  • Still need some help? You can make an appointment with an Academic Coach at UC’s Learning Assistance Center, or check out their resource page for even more tips - Click here