April 30, 2018

Easing Test Anxiety

By Ashley Phillips

Don't panic buttons for anxietyHave you ever been taking a test when suddenly everything goes blurry, you can feel your heart begin to race, and you start having trouble understanding the test question? I have. For me, it was test anxiety.

What Causes Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety can come from many sources. It can come from not preparing well, having had difficult testing experiences in the past, or having your mind on outside circumstances (like not feeling well or worrying about something at home or work).

Preparing Well

Let’s talk about preparation for a minute. Have you ever stayed up all night before a test cramming information? You might be able to remember some information, but exhaustion makes it even harder to understand the test questions and apply the details you’re trying to remember.

Instead of waiting to prepare for an exam until the night before, start reviewing materials and testing yourself as early in advance as you can. Preparing early can give you more time to learn the information. It also can take away some of the fear of the unknown that can come when thinking about an upcoming test.

Testing Well

What if you prepared well, but you still feel anxious when you’re taking the test? If this happens, recognize how you’re feeling, accept that it’s normal to feel nervous, and then take steps to refocus on what you know. Take a deep breath, and choose the best answer option for each question. Focus on what you do know, and make your best educated guess on questions you’re a little unsure about. You can always revisit questions at the end if you want to.

Being Well

Take care of yourself before the test. Know where you need to be for the test, and when you need to be there. Since you’ve already been studying for the test, you won’t need to review at the last minute, and you can take that time right before the test to practice a relaxation exercise, read something that makes you laugh, or eat a snack.

Anxiety before a test is normal, coming from our desire to do our best. Planning ahead so you are well prepared, employing good test-taking strategies during the test, and taking care of yourself so you are rested and feel well when the time comes will help ease your anxiety and help you feel more confident going into the test.

If you’d like more information about addressing test anxiety and preparing for tests, check out our On-Demand Resources or use the Academic Coaching request form to contact a Learning Specialist. If you want to talk about anxiety in general, contact the UAMS Student Wellness Center at 501-686-8408; they’re available to all UAMS students.