Anxiety is nothing but our body’s natural response to danger. Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which the test taker experiences severe distress and anxiety when thinking about or taking an exam. Whenever we feel threatened or being under pressure or may be facing a stressful situation, our body senses an alarming feel that triggers anxiety.

Coping with test anxiety

The pressure of studies and the expected results could trigger anxiety in students called as test anxiety. Although test anxiety is a common symptom, it doesn’t do any good if it crosses a certain level. When the anxiety turns out to be negative, it weakens our abilities. So, before the things get worse, the techniques for coping with test anxiety should be known.

Before the test

Most people suffer some degree of anxiety when preparing for a test. The levels of this test anxiety could range from a mild nervous feeling to a full panic attack. It is very important to reduce the level of anxiety to study effectively for a test. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to reduce anxiety, which will benefit your grades and your overall psychological health.

Do not wait till the last minute

Leave yourself plenty of time for studying. Waiting until the night before a test to start studying is a good way only to increase your anxiety. You feel overwhelmed, and you won’t be able to focus on studying. Instead of waiting until the last minute, start studying as soon as a test is scheduled. Preparing since several days makes you feel more relaxed because you have plenty of time to learn the material, slowly.

Schedule your time

Draw up a schedule to make most of your study time. Set aside as much time as you feel you need; it could be 20 minutes a day, it could be 2 hours a day. After studying for a few days, feel comfortable to adjust this time if you feel the need for more or less time. Stick to this schedule so when it comes time for the test, you know you’ve prepared as well as possible.

Look over the notes every day

You should also get into the habit of looking over your notes from class every day. Statistically, students who do this get better grades on tests because the brain engrosses information more efficiently this way. It can help with your anxiety because you’ll have a head start on your studying before you even knew a test was coming up.

Be organized

Being disorganized can make anxiety much worse. To avoid this problem, keep all of your notes schoolwork neat and organized. Organizing everything lets you to find everything you need and spend the maximum amount of time studying.

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Don’t study the last minute before the exam

You’ll find that studying right up until the last minute hurts more than it helps. In the last few minutes before an exam, you can’t learn anything new and you’ll mix up what’s already in your long-term memory. Relax as you’ve studied as best you can. Give yourself only calming, positive messages before the exam.

Take proper breaks

Break refreshes your energy to do more. Studying 24/7 will wreck you long before the actual exam commences. It’s a better idea to divide the day into three periods of 150 minutes each and revise during two of them. When you are not revising, get well away from your desk. Plan one day a week to be completely free of revision. Try going for a walk, taking a nap, drink some water whatever you have to do. This will reset your brain and you can come back to your studies refreshed and ready to continue. Domestic chores are really useful.  Get the support of your friends or your family. Be cool.

Plan your revision

Set aside plenty of time for revision. Go through your notes, essays and reports and focus on essential material. Rehearse questions you might expect in your exams. The Library will have copies of previous exam papers. Go through them to get an idea on what portion is being mostly covered and make sure that you didn’t leave a topic uncovered in all those chapters. Don’t sit reading for long periods. It quickly becomes boring and your concentration will start to wander.

Panicking the night before

You’re relaxed during the revision period but Panic sets in the night before, or on the day of the exam, but you can cope once you’re in the exam room. Learn in advance how to relax; try different things like watching a good movie, reading a comic or magazine, or remembering your favourite jokes. Gain control on yourself, on how to come back from the unwanted thoughts. Then you will feel confident and if you panic, or your mind goes blank, you can regain control. Try using humour to beat the negative thoughts. Do your best to be well prepared.

Go on time or early for the test

It’s sure that getting to the test late will make you feel anxious before you even start the test. Do everything you can to be in time for the test. That way, you can sit down and relax for a few minutes before starting. You’ll be able to gather your thoughts and focus on positive thinking. This relaxation period before the test is very important to getting off to a good start.

Don’t go into the classroom until the exam begins

Often, while you’re waiting you’ll hear other students predicting about what might be covered. Although it’s a good study strategy to brainstorm with others in the days before the test, at this point listening to all these assumptions may only demoralize your confidence.

Trust yourself

You’ve planned your attack and it’s a good one, no matter how much it differs from others’. Try to maintain a positive attitude while preparing for the test and during the test.

Stay relaxed

Keep your mind in a relaxed state to make it function well. In case you start to get nervous, take a few deep breaths slowly to relax yourself and then get back to work. Also, never worry about how fast others are finishing or how many sheets are they filling up, just concentrate on your own test.  Everyone has to fight their own fight.

During the test

When you receive the test look it over, read the directions twice, and then organize time efficiently. Write down important equations/formulas, definitions, or facts on top of the page or in the margins before beginning. To build confidence move onto easier questions and if you feel confused by one, you can go back to answer them at the end if you have time. Don’t rush through the test, but work at a comfortable pace. Always focus on the question you’re working on and let your mind wander to unnecessary activities around you. Use some of the stress buster exercises during the test, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Get a drink of water and try to clear your mind. Think about post-exam rewards for a minute as a way to motivate yourself.

Manage your time

Keep checking your time so that you don’t spend much time on one answer elaborating it while having less time for the others. Remember that you should have enough time for your final answer. In case you run of time, make a skeleton answer in note form. At least you have put something down.

Panic during the exam

Sometimes when you just enter and take your seat in your exam hall, you could develop panicking. Don’t worry. Make yourself comfortable. Adjust your clothing. Take a few deep breaths and sighs to reduce tension. Sit with your eyes closed for a little while. Then only turn over the exam paper. Most people feel tense at this point. But, whatever is your state of preparation, your task now is to do your best.

After the test

Forget about the test.  It’s all over. Go home and relax. Don’t talk to others about what was on the exam. Asking questions such as “What did you get for 3rd sum?” will not help you or the other person. There’s no good in discussing a paper done. This could affect your mood on the next paper. So, just stop worrying and treat yourself by spending some time for relaxation. After a couple of hours, try to list some factors that you think improved your test taking and reduced your test anxiety. Don’t worry if there are only a few to mention, it’s still a starting point that will lead to success of overcoming your test anxiety.

These are the ways with which one can overcome test anxiety. For having some tips to reduce the test anxiety, read the article on Tips to reduce test anxiety. In order to have an expert opinion on your anxiety levels and the ways to control or prevent it from bothering you and to have a psychological support so as to excel in your life, book an appointment with our counselors today!!


Prof. Madhu Kosuri

I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.

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