What is test anxiety?
Test anxiety is worry or fear caused by taking exams.
- Mental distraction: inability to concentrate, easily distracted.
- Physical symptoms: increased heart and breathing rates, sweaty palms, nausea, fidgeting or headache.
- Mental blocks: ineffective thinking.
Who is affected?
All students are affected, but to varying degrees.
- Slightly anxious students see exams as an opportunity to show what they know.
- Anxious students who have failed tests before view them as a threat of another potential failure.
- Highly anxious students perform poorly even when they know the material because they do not manage their anxiety.
What causes test anxiety?
- Pressure from yourself and others
- Poor past experiences
- Fear of failure
- Poor study skills
What can I do to stop test anxiety?
Learn effective study habits and basic self-discipline techniques:
- Create a study atmosphere.
- Study where you can concentrate without interruption from phone, TV or friends.
- Sit at a well-lit desk or table.
- Study when you feel alert and rested.
- Make the most of your notes.
- Take notes effectively.
- Read your notes for a few minutes after class to fill in gaps.
- Review your notes weekly.
- Manage your time with a schedule.
- Mark deadlines and exam dates on a calendar.
- Schedule several short review sessions (40 to 50 minutes long) rather than a few long ones.
- Be realistic about the amount of material you can cover in one session.
- Schedule some free time as well.
- Create learning aids:
- Make flash cards for terms, foreign language vocabulary, etc.
- Make timelines and charts.
- Create an outline to break the information into smaller categories.
- Prepare yourself:
- Attend all classes.
- Listen actively by asking questions and picking out key phrases and information.
- Get help at the Study Skills Center, the Writing Center, or schedule peer tutoring.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Eat and sleep well before an exam.
- Avoid cramming.
- Avoid caffeine and other drugs.
Learn good test taking skills. Follow these tips:
- For Short Answer Exams
- Budget time.
- Do the easiest questions first.
- Answer each question, even when you don’t know the complete answer.
- Use the full time allowed to review answers, make corrections and add information.
- For Essay Exams
- Read all the questions first.
- Use short, simple sentences that are logical and clear.
- Start with the easiest question first.
- Answer more difficult questions last.
- Budget time.
- For Objective Exams
- Solve in order given.
- Circle and skip difficult questions and return if time permits.
- Beware of qualifying words such as: most, all, sometimes or always.
- To be sure you thoroughly understand each question, think as you read.
- Finish the exam, then return to skipped questions. Use all allotted time.
- For Standardized Exams
- Get a study aid guide and work through it carefully and consistently.
- Circle questions that you are unable to answer and return to them later if time allows.
- Make an educated guess by eliminating choices you know are wrong, then look for clues in the remaining choices before selecting an answer.
How can I control my anxiety?
- Don’t let emotions interfere with logic.
- Think about why you become anxious and afraid.
- Turn negative, self-defeating thoughts into positive, supportive thoughts.
- Use your imagination positively.
- Disastrous scenarios create anxiety.
- Imagine yourself as calm and in control, as a winner not a loser.
- Learn to relax
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Learn how to unblock your mind during an exam.
(Techniques taught at the Study Skills Center.)
How can I deal with pressure before it has a chance to build up?
- Use the resources available to you, such as:
- The counseling center
- Peer advisors
- The Study Skills Center
- Your parents, spouse or someone else that you trust
Take steps to beat test anxiety! You can succeed.
Adapted from Scriptographic Booklet: About Test Anxiety, Channing l. Bate Co. Inc., South Deerfield, MA, 1989 Edition.