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Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety

A little nervousness before a test can be good. It shows that we care and helps motivate us to work hard to put forth our best effort on the exam. When we become too anxious, though, that anxiety can undermine our confidence and interfere with our ability to solve problems and recall info. Try these strategies to calm your nerves:

  1. Remember to take care of yourself first. Get some sleep, eat a decent meal, and engage in a little exercise (even if it is just a 10-minute walk) before you sit down to take a test.
  2. Come prepared.  Arrive at the test site early. Make a special effort to bring all materials, including extra pens, pencils, paper, etc. By showing up on time and prepared, you can avoid worrying about small details and becoming distracted from the goal: doing your best.
  3. Engage in positive self-talk. Replace irrational negative thinking with positive self-talk. Adopt an upbeat but realistic attitude. Try saying this: "I prepared carefully for this test. If I do my best, I have a good chance of passing it." *Pro tip: This works best when the words are true!
  4. Breathe. At any point during the test you feel yourself getting jittery, take several deep breaths, exhaling slowly after each one. Visualize the tension draining from your body as you breathe out. Think of a peaceful, quiet setting (e.g., sunrise on a mountaintop). Imagine yourself calm and relaxed in that setting. Once calm, focus back on the test.

Additional Tips for Taking Tests Online

  1. Familiarize yourself with the technology ahead of time. Does your teacher offer practice quizzes or reviews in Blackboard/MyLab? If so, do them! Wherever your online test will be housed, be sure you know how to access and work within that learning platform before you login to take a graded test. This will cut down on anxiety and time needed to learn the system.
  2. Replicate face-to-face testing conditions. Schedule a time to take it, make arrangements to eliminate distractions (i.e. arrange childcare, put out the barking dog, don't leave anything on the burner), and make sure all the materials you may need are gathered before you begin, so you don't need to walk away. Focus on only the test until you are finished.
  3. Study as though you will not be able to access your textbook or notes, even if you will. Do all the reading, organize your notes, quiz yourself. Assume you will be asked to write an essay, and make sure you know enough about the material to have something interesting to say. If you do this, you will likely be able to complete much of the test without using your notes and free up more time for you to work on the more difficult test items.
  4. Ignore the clock. If your test is timed, don't let that stress you out. Taking a test in a classroom is timed, too, but you don't tend to think about it as much because the minutes aren't ticking down in front of your face like they do on the screen. If the ticking timer gives you anxiety, cover it with a post-it note, and only uncover it when you feel the need to check your time.