Try the following tips to help you reign in your nerves.


  • Monitor your test anxiety. What makes you anxious? What symptoms do you feel? What seems to help? Be aware of the types of anxiety you are feeling and how you are choosing to address them.
  • Try deep breathing. Take 2-3 deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling so your abdomen expands and contracts. Deep breathing can trigger the body's relaxation response, reducing your feelings of anxiety.
  • Consciously relax.  Try to relax muscles in your shoulders, arms, neck, legs, etc. or alternately tensing and relaxing muscles.  By relaxing your body, you may be able to also relax your mind and approach the test with more comfort.
  • Decrease distractions.  Arrive early to tests so that you can choose a seat in the front corner away from the door or in a back corner where you can turn toward the wall.  If you are in the front of the room, you won’t have to look at how many people have left the exam or how many are still working.
  • Engage in positive self-talk. If you catch yourself thinking about failing the test, or not knowing an answer, or what this means about your intelligence or your future success and happiness, tell yourself (in your head) to stop thinking that way.  Replace those negative thoughts with a positive message like “I can do this" or "I am prepared for the test."
  • Don’t fixate on the clock. Keeping track of time is important for pacing yourself in the test, but don’t get distracted by checking the clock too frequently.
  • Remain calm.  Come prepared and on time, and stay away from stressed or anxious students.  One research article found that students who did a free write on their thoughts and worries for the test before the test started outperformed a similar group of anxious students who didn’t do the free write (Ramirez & Beilock, 2011).
  • Be confident.  Trust your preparation and your ability to perform well.

Now that you've got these in your pocket, check out these test-taking techniques to set yourself up for even greater success.

Filed Under: