If You Have Test Anxiety, This One’s For You

“Don’t forget, there’s an exam next Tuesday!” Great…I’ll start stressing now!

Let’s pump the brakes on those kinds of thoughts. We all get a little nervous before taking tests or exams, but for some of us (me included), can get so in-our-heads about being tested on our knowledge, that we blank. Test anxiety can get the best of us and can compromise our ability to perform well even when we know the material.

What Test Anxiety Looks Like:

Test anxiety symptoms vary from person to person. The effects can be physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral.

  • Physical symptoms: sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, dry mouth, nausea, “butterflies”
  • Behavioral & cognitive symptoms: fidgeting, negative self-talk, blanking
  • Emotional symptoms: feelings of anger, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, disappointment

It’s important to note that some anxiety before/during a test can be a good thing. It’s when the anxiety becomes overwhelming that it negatively affects our focus and overall performance.

What Causes Test Anxiety:

Although the reasons for test anxiety are different for everyone, most reasons can fall into one of three categories.

  1. Having a history of performing poorly on tests
  2. Being/feeling unprepared
  3. Being/feeling afraid of failure

Conquering Test Anxiety:

  1. Prepare yourself: Don’t wait till the last minute to start studying. Not procrastinating is hard, but if studying early means that you’ll feel calmer during the test; it’s worth it.  If you’re feeling behind, there’s no shame in asking for help from your friends, family, or teachers.
  2. Stop with the negative self-talk: This is definitely easier said than done, but next time you start feeling anxious, replace those thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you’re thinking “I can’t do this”,  replace it with “I can do this”.
  3. Get enough sleep: The night before your test, go to bed at a reasonable hour so you don’t feel groggy when you wake up.
  4. Take deep breaths: You can do this before and during the test. Taking deep breaths will help you stay calm and give you the ability to refocus.
  5. Don’t focus on perfection: Making mistakes is okay–it’s how you learn. No one is really perfect. What matters, in the end, is how hard you worked and if you’ve improved.

Written by GUADS staff member Toni with contributions from

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