Study Skills Test Taking

Test Anxiety

I thought I was ready. I studied; I got a good night's sleep; I knew the material. But once I was holding the test in my hands, I panicked. My mind went blank. What can I do?

I wish I had a magic solution to this one. I also get the impression that every student is a little different, so what works for one may not work for another. But here are strategies that seem to work for many:

  1. Practice deep breathing as a way to calm yourself. Then when it comes test time, take deep breaths as often as you need.
  2. Overprepare for the test. I don't want to be glib about this, but I don't see students suffering from test anxiety in 'easy' classes. The better prepared you are, the less likely you are to get anxious. Go into that test 'armed for bear.' Review daily, weekly and then intensely right before the test. Give yourself (or better yet, get a friend or tutor) many practice tests where you pretend it's the real thing and let yourself get anxious and then work your way through it.
  3. If your mind goes blank as you start the test, keep reading over it and looking for a question you can answer. Starting on that question will help your brain start moving again, and you'll be more likely to recall the information you need.
  4. Visualize something positive and reassuring (such as a trip to the beach or a day skiing. Something that makes you feel happy and calm and helps pull you out of this state of anxiety).
  5. Exercise (though not during the test, nor for that matter, right before the test). Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and may help you feel more at peace when it comes time to tackle a tough test.
  6. Get enough sleep before the test (and all that week). Eat healthy foods-don't skip meals. The brain is connected to the rest of your body. If you don't take care of yourself, your brain will not be able to function well.
  7. Get help. Help may be in the form of extra tutoring; visiting with the professor; talking to friends and family; and going to the counseling center or Wellness Center (where they do some really cool stuff, such as Biofeedback, to help students conquer test anxiety).

A final note-a little anxiety isn't so bad-it helps you focus, keeps you motivated, makes you move at a good pace through the test. It may not be wise to be so relaxed and at peace with the world that you don't try and don't pass the test!