Exam and Test Anxiety: How to Cope

How to cope with exam and test anxiety? Test anxiety is a combination of heightened physiological arousal, increased nervousness, sweating, pounding heart and excessive worry. This combination – arousal plus worry – tends to distract students with a rush of upsetting thoughts and feelings (Stipek, 2001). Studies show that students are typically most anxious when they don’t know the test material. If this is the case, calming down won’t help you pass the test. It only means that you will remain calm while failing the test.

Here are some suggestions for coping with exam and test anxiety:

Prepare – Hard work is the most direct antidote for exam and test anxiety. Many test-anxious students simply study too late, too little, or cram the night before. Improving your study skills is a good way to reduce test anxiety (Cassady, 2004). The best solution is to over-prepare by studying long before test day. It is a known fact well-prepared students score higher, worry less and are less prone to panic.

Relax – Learning to relax is another proven way to lower anxiety. You can learn easy relaxation skills in the Stress Self-Help section called Easy Stress Relief. There are helpful tips on breathing, relaxation, meditation and exercise to reduce test anxiety. Emotional support can also help. Try studying with supportive classmates.

Rehearse – To reduce nervousness, rehearse how you will cope with upsetting events. Before taking your test, imagine yourself going completely blank, running out of time, or feeling panicked. Then calmly plan how you will handle each situation: by keeping your attention on the task, by focusing on one question at a time.

Change Your Thinking – Another helpful strategy involves simply listing the upsetting thoughts you have during exams. Once they are listed, you can work on combatting those worries with calming, rational replies (Jones & Petruzzi, 1995). One such thought might be “I’m going to fail this test and all my friends will think I am stupid.” Your response to this thought could be “I will prepare well for this test and I know I can pass it. My friends will still like me and I can improve on the next test.”

Students who cope well usually have good intentions and do the best they can even under trying circumstances. Simply becoming more confident can actually increase your test score results because it helps you to remain calm.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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