A College Student’s Guide to Test Anxiety

While you might sometimes feel like you’re the only person in the world struggling to take tests, many people get stressed out, especially those with anxiety, ADHD, and learning disabilities. But having test anxiety doesn’t mean you have to struggle with tests for the rest of your life. In fact, you can do plenty of things to lessen the stress of taking tests and improve your mental health.

Study Tips

Preparation is key if you want to minimize your test-related or study-related stress. Before the day of the test, review the material a little bit every day. If there’s a place you feel most comfortable in, try studying there. Spending time studying in the same place can make remembering things during the exam easier. If there’s a practice test you can take, do that; it’ll help you figure out what you need to focus your studying on. If you study better with others, form a study group with your classmates. And if you’re not totally sure if you’ve understood the material right, talk to your professor; studying from inaccurate notes isn’t going to be useful.

Health and Wellness

Your physical and mental health are at risk when you stress out about tests. Many (college) students struggle with depression and general anxiety, which can only worsen test anxiety. But whether or not this applies to you, taking care of your health can help stave off the worst of those feelings. Always take the time to eat regular meals and drink plenty of water; your brain needs fuel and water to function. Avoid sugary and caffeinated beverages, which can actually make anxiety worse. You should also carve out time to exercise regularly, especially around testing days, as it’s good for your physical health and can help relieve tension and anxiety. Also, avoid the temptation to pull all-nighters to study, as a regular sleep schedule is directly tied to better academic performance.

Taking care of your physical health can also improve your mental health. You can also take care of your mental health by reminding yourself that a single test doesn’t have the power to define you. Reflecting on your past accomplishments can also help you feel more confident about your test. You might also visualize completing the test successfully in your mind over and over again to give yourself an extra boost.

Test-Taking and Calming Techniques

When it’s time to take the test, the most important thing you can do once you sit down at your desk is to loosen up. When you sit down in your chair, get comfortable, close your eyes, focus on taking deep, slow breaths in and out, and say “relax” to yourself in your head. You can also tighten and relax different muscles in your body one group at a time, from your feet to your head, as you breathe deeply.

During the test, read everything carefully and skip questions you don’t know; you can come back to them later if you have time. Don’t panic if your classmates work at a faster pace than you, and hand in their papers before you’re done. If you find yourself getting anxious, practice positive self-talk; remind yourself that you have prepared for this test and that you’re fully capable of succeeding.