A person taking a multiple-choice exam. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 16 to 20% of students experience major test anxiety. ALBERTO G./FLICKR VIA CC BY 2.0

Test-taking can be one of the most rigorous and stressful parts of college. Having to sit in a quiet room, surrounded by classmates, and having to answer questions under a time constraint can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone. 

According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 16 to 20% of students experience major test anxiety. There are many reasons why people have test anxiety, whether it is the fear of failing or simply just feeling underprepared. This anxiety can lead to rushing through the test, skipping over important information or not being able to focus properly. These are some tips I recommend to help avoid these problems and ensure that you have a healthy mindset before and during your exam. 

  1. Prepare ahead of time — This tip seems obvious, but it’s really important to make sure that you space out your studying so that you aren’t overwhelmed the night before a test. A really good strategy for overcoming this is by giving yourself practice tests. In doing so, the repetition of going over material eases test-takers’ anxiety during the day of the exam. Practice tests are a good way to familiarize yourself with the content, and by doing them you can know what topics you need to review.
  2.  Self-care is important. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recommends engaging in breathing techniques during the exam, along with getting a good night’s sleep and eating before the test. It is important to put your mental health first before an upcoming test as it can make or break your mindset going into the exam. Prioritize your health and wellness over studying because a lack of sleep and poor nutrition can hinder your ability to do well on a test. Resist the urge to cram or stay up all night studying because it is going to do more harm than good in the long term. 
  3. Take your time and pace yourself. “Sav[ing] hard questions for later and moving on to other problems you know you can do [help] you gain confidence to come back to that problem,” Darlene Dittell, a junior atmospheric and oceanic sciences major, said.  Her roommate, Audrey Sinclair, fellow junior and atmospheric and oceanic sciences major, said, “Take a deep breather and hype yourself up. Remind yourself that you studied.” 
  4. Read and reread the questions carefully. This may seem like a no-brainer, but test anxiety can inhibit you from reading through the questions carefully since you just want to finish the test as soon as possible. In an article by the Princeton Review, reading the questions thoroughly is a way to avoid making small mistakes or misunderstanding the question. If you find your eyes glazing over and still not being able to read the question, take a breath and go back to it later. 
  5. Don’t get distracted and focus on smaller goals. During the test, there can be a lot of distractions, like what other students are doing or even the clock. While it is important to keep track of time, fixating on the clock will not help your anxiety. The best thing that you can do is focus on yourself and make sure you leave enough time for each question. Take a deep breath, center yourself and focus on your test.

Anxiety in all forms can be difficult to deal with, but there are ways to cope. These are only some examples of what could work for test anxiety, but there are plenty more. Find what works for you and stick to it. It is important to acknowledge your anxiety and fears so you can be better prepared to handle what comes your way. Seek professional help if your anxiety becomes worse or if you think that you might have a learning difference. Midterm season is upon us and incorporating these tips in your studying habits can pave the way for a stress-free exam experience.


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