Don’t let test anxiety interfere with your success at Rivier. The Counseling and Wellness Center can help you gain control over this challenge.
Tests are a normal, though often dreaded, part of the college experience. It is common to feel stressed or anxious when preparing for or taking a test.
Most students get nervous during testing, but some students experience test anxiety at a level that is physically distressing and interferes with performance. Test anxiety symptoms can range from minor annoyances, such as forgetting a common formula, to overwhelming and debilitating fears.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
If you experience some of the following symptoms while test-taking, you might be struggling with test anxiety.
- Overwhelming fear or panic
- Nervous worrying
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Pervasive negativism
- Feeling of impending doom
- I’m so stupid
- I’m going to fail
- This is hopeless
- Why should I even try?
- I just can’t do (this subject)
- I have to get out of here
- Increased sweating
- Pounding heart
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tightness
- Mind goes blank or freezes up
- Distractibility; poor concentration
- Increased errors
- Racing thoughts
- Overthinking concepts & questions
- Second-guessing/changing answers
What to Do if You Think You Have Test Anxiety
The sources of test anxiety are poor test preparation, ineffective test-taking strategies, psychological pressures, and poor health habits. Consider the extent to which each of these applies to you, and attempt to make the following changes.
Focus on Test Preparation
- Clarify test formats and contents with your instructors
- Know what your instructor expects
- Ask questions
- Review past assignments, quizzes, and textbook sample problems
- Create a study guide and practice tests on exam topics
- Collaborate with other students
- Don’t cram; prioritize study time
Relieve Psychological Pressures
- Arrive at the exam early and take time to relax before the test
- Don’t discuss the exam with peers
- Keep your test goals reasonable
- Practice affirming statements like “I’m ready for this test; I can do this.”
- Use a thought-stopping technique to manage distracting thoughts
- Don’t let the test define personal worth
Use Effective Test-Taking Strategies
- Learn basic test-taking strategies for various test formats (multiple choice vs. essay tests)
- Read test directions thoroughly
- Do a “mind dump” when you first receive the test: write down any formulas or facts you are afraid you might forget
- Take one question at a time; don’t focus on the entire test all at once
- Don’t rush; pace yourself to time limits
- Don’t dwell on questions you can’t answer; mark them, skip them, and return to them later
- Avoid observing others’ test-taking behavior; don’t engage in self-comparison
Practice Health Behaviors
- Plan and manage your study time well, and get plenty of sleep during the nights preceding your exams
- Eat a healthy meal before each exam
- Practice deep breathing techniques regularly so you can access these skills at exam time
- Avoid excessive use of caffeine, including energy drinks
- Exercise regularly
- Take mental breaks and have some fun—this will actually improve your academic performance!