How to Overcome Testing Anxiety

pencil & book

The academic environment has increasingly become more competitive over the years. Students are faced with an enormous amount of pressure to perform at a high level while balancing other aspects of daily life. Because of these added stressors, individuals may be faced with a growing sense of anxiety as they navigate their way through highschool and into the collegiate atmosphere. This may lead to an overwhelming sense of stress which may inhibit the ability to perform well on tests or other assignments. Sweaty palms, nervous leg twitching, the inability to concentrate as well as a growing pit of uncertainty may arise in a student as they sit down to take a test either in the classroom or online. Here are some tips to follow in order to alleviate some of this unnecessary stress before completing a test.



Your professor may announce your test a week in advance or just a few days before the exam will take place. Students may find themselves procrastinating in the initial stages of studying because they may feel overwhelmed. I have fallen victim to procrastination and have caught myself cramming for exams the night prior which induces a sense of stress that can have a lasting effect the following day. Because of these experiences, I have learned that it is beneficial to gradually immerse myself with the material and expand the studying process over the course of a few days. This may include, but is not limited to, glancing over the study guide when the professor first announces the date of the exam and then slowly starting to look over past notes and other quizzes in order to find the needed material. After this step, individuals can make note cards, their own study guides and reach out to other students or tutors if they have pressing questions. This gradual process alleviates the pressure one may experience while frantically trying to study for the test the night before. 


Take a Break:

Personally, I start to become annoyed if I try to study for an extensive amount of time. If I am looking at my notes or my computer my eyes will occasionally lose focus and I will have to reread the material over and over in order to try and make sense of it. I have found that quick power naps, exercise or watching a favorite TV show allows me to decompress and come back to studying feeling refreshed and confident to accomplish the task at hand. Exercise has the ability to boost endorphins, the“feel good” chemicals in the brain, that help decrease cortisol levels (stress and anxiety) while giving you a quick mood boost. If you are feeling tired while you study, you may not be absorbing as much information as you would like. Take a 20-40  minute nap in order to become more alert and stay focused while completing your assignments. According to the Sleep Foundation, “A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”  Lastly, sometimes students just need a break. Watch a movie or a TV show with a friend as a reward for accomplishing your tasks. 


The Day Of:

As soon as you sit down to take the exam, try to avoid personal doubt. This can be very hard to do; but, finding a positive mental space will allow you to decrease these overbearing pressures and anxieties. Remember that many students have been in this position and it is all a part of the learning process. I like to look over the exam before I begin answering the questions. This allows me to prioritize which questions I should dedicate most of my time to. Time restraints may be the biggest factor of these unwanted stressors. Students may find themselves watching the clock and fear that completing the test may be impossible. Prioritizing which questions to answer first may allow you to compartmentalize the structure of the test allowing the student to feel more comfortable regarding the tests’ material. 


I have always struggled with test anxiety and it continues to have an effect on my preparation and when I take tests. However, the small changes outlined here have allowed me to learn how to better deal with these stressors. As I have stated before, many students struggle with these pressures and it is important to remember that you are not alone while navigating the challenges of testing and discovering new strategies. The tutors at PEERS edu are dedicated to promoting confidence and providing support so that students will feel more prepared and successful in their academic journey. Because they are fellow students, our tutors can empathize with your stress and encourage you to try some of these tips and tricks to alleviate stress levels. What do you think causes the testing anxiety that so many students face?  

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