Reduce test anxiety by preparing before, during, and after an exam.
General Study Guidelines
- Develop a study plan that allows plenty of time for reviewing all material.
- Organize material so that the most important material will be given the greatest amount of time. If you have any questions, check with the instructor and use office hours for consultation if available to you.
- Keep a steady pace instead of cramming at the end. Rushing, either while studying or while taking a test, will work against you.
- Study with another person or with a small group. Make sure your study partners don’t raise your anxiety level and are serious about working.
- Take a 10-minute break approximately once an hour. Move away from the physical location where you are studying. Practice relaxation exercises or other self-nuturing activities.
- Adopt a sportsman’s attitude: “Win if you can, lose if you must, but do the best you can.”
- Plan a reward for yourself after the test no matter how well you feel you did.
- Eating right, getting enough sleep, and building in time for relaxation will help you concentrate and learn the materials.
The Day Before
- Review major concepts. Attempting to learn new material may interfere with your recall of material you have already learned.
- If you feel tense or anxious, take some time for physical exercise to burn off excess energy.
- If you completed your study plan, go to a movie or watch some television. This form of mental relaxation will not interfere with your performance.
- Get a good night’s sleep. The better rested you are, the more likely it is that you’ll perform at your maximum.
- Avoid any friends who you know from the past to be “anxiety generators.”
The Day of the Test
- Engage in relaxed “non-thinking” activity the hour before the exam, like listening to soothing music, deep breathing, and mindfulness exercises. CAPS offers free mindfulness workshops each semester.
- Get to the test on time.
- When the exam is distributed, take time to read the directions twice.
Hints For Particular Types Of Test Questions
- On multiple choice items, read all options first. Eliminate the obviously wrong alternatives first. Choose the “better” or “best” of the remaining alternatives.
- On short answer and essay tests, do exactly what is asked. Overkill is usually a waste of time and annoying to the person who grades the paper.
- On long essay questions, begin with an outline of your answer. Make sure all the important points in your outline are included in your response.
- On true-or-false items, check for tricky words such as only, always, or most.
- Throughout the test take a few minutes to check on your breathing and practice mindful breathing.
- If you need to go back to baseline, practice some deep breathing and repeat some coping statements that will provide reassurance (e.g. “I don’t have to rush, it is OK to take time to figure out what I need to do.”) Catch yourself engaging in anxious self-talk (e.g. “Take your time”, “Don’t jump to conclusions.”)
After The Test
- Don’t hash over what you might have done or mistakes you might have made.
- Follow through on the reward you have promised yourself.
- Regardless of the grade you receive, review the test carefully.
- If you don’t understand your grade or the grader’s comments, make an appointment to discuss them.
- Evaluate your study program. Consider ways you might want to work on making changes for the future based on how useful your strategies and choices were this time.