How To Overcome Test Anxiety in College

Posted: April 19, 2022 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 4 minutes

Overcoming test anxietyAnyone who’s ever taken a big test will tell you that the most stressful part is not the material itself, but the anticipation that comes with waiting to take the test. Studying, practicing, and preparing all whilst barely sleeping as the test date hangs over you. But before you bite your nails down to a stub worrying about your next test, try applying these tricks for dealing with test anxiety.

Seven Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety

Study Effectively

Despite what you may think, simply looking over your notes for hours (or minutes) before a test hasn’t proven to be helpful to anyone. The more interactive studying you do, the more the information will stick in your mind. Be sure you’re taking handwritten notes, maybe even with different colors to help sort the information. Handwriting information has been proven to enhance your memory of information because it makes your brain process information with extra detail. You can also try color-coding your notes to remember which information goes with which unit. Another trick is figuring out what kind of study locations help you focus better. If you study in the same place multiple times, you are more likely to remember more.

Take Care of Yourself

You can’t perform well on a test if your stomach is growling and you’re half-asleep! That being said, make sure you eat a full breakfast before the test to power your brain and fuel your body. The best foods to boost your brainpower include avocados, broccoli, black beans, blueberries, beets, dark chocolate, celery, walnuts, whole grains, and spinach.

Additionally, make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep to help calm test anxiety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed to the point where you can’t sleep, try to do anything that helps you to relax so that you can get the zzzs you need to make that A on your grade.

Get to the Testing Site Early

The last thing you want is to be skidding into the classroom or testing center at the last minute, so make sure you manage your time wisely and get there before the test starts. Allow yourself some extra time in the morning to get ready for the day to help minimize stress.

Establish a Pretest Routine - and Stick To It

Consistency is the most important thing to remember when preparing for a test. Your brain likes patterns, so be sure that when you go through your study or pretest routine, you stick to it. This can help you mentally prepare for the test you are about to take and your brain can start to wake up and get ready to work.

Stay Positive

Keeping a positive attitude while you prepare for your test can influence how you perform when you actually take it. Studies show that having a positive mindset can enhance your creativity and problem solving, helps you stay focused, and affects your overall mental productivity. If you get anxious during the test, just remember to breathe and think about things that make you happy.

Recognize What You Aren’t Understanding

Instead of just winging it on the questions you don’t understand during the test, pay attention to what things you don’t understand while you’re studying for the test. Look for a pattern and see if the topics that are trickier are correlated in any way. Additionally, if you have any learning difficulties (ADHD, dyslexia, etc.) pay attention to that while you’re studying. Talk to a counselor in the Counseling and Psychological Services Office if you’re really struggling.

Just Start the Test

It’s common knowledge to go through a test and do the questions that you understand first, so if that’s what gets you started, follow that method. But no matter what test-taking method you choose, be sure you just get started. Keep track of how much time you have and don’t worry about what other people are doing. And remember to thoroughly read the questions before taking your best guess!

Some Academic Stress is Okay

When dealing with test anxiety or academic stress, CAPS reminds students that sometimes it’s okay to allow the anxiety. Some research suggests that it's the worry about the worrying in the test that contributes to poor performance. Allowing the anxiety, recognizing that its function is to help you be alert and safe, and even allowing an allotted time for worst-case scenarios has a counter-intuitive effect and actually helps reduce anxiety. Trying to force your brain to stop worrying has the opposite outcome.

Examples of this include being nervous about freezing up or having a panic attack. This can occur either while you’re preparing/studying for the test or taking the test. If you find yourself getting nervous before or during the test, go over the aforementioned steps to help get yourself back to a calm state. If the anxiety carries into after the test, give yourself some positive affirmations that are just a Google search away.

Applying just one of these tips can really help you boost your test-taking game! Experiment to see what works best for you and watch your test anxiety melt away.

And remember, if you’re having extra stress or anxiety-related issues surrounding test-taking, or any other subject, talk to someone in the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office. They are here to assist all students in addressing stress and conflicts that may distract them from achieving their full potential.

Tags: Student Mental Health

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