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How to Manage Your Test Anxiety

Anxious Troubled Student with Books on the Desk with a White Background

Anxiety is common for college students. From the time you start planning for college to the time you graduate, you’re under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed. If you have test anxiety, college may further compound this issue. You can’t do your best work when you are panicked and stressed about your exam. Here are some ways to manage the anxiety so you can use your knowledge and skills to put forth your best work.

Recognize the Symptoms

Maybe you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is really test anxiety. Or, maybe you know it is, but you haven’t looked very closely at how it manifests itself. Start with a little self-observation.

If you notice these symptoms at test time, it’s time to address the issue:

  • You have a headache, nausea, or diarrhea.
  • You’re sweating excessively, your heart rate is up, and you’re short of breath.
  • You feel light-headed or faint.
  • You feel like you’re having a heart attack.
  • You feel angry, afraid, helpless, or disappointed in yourself.
  • You’re having a hard time concentrating.
  • Your thoughts are all negative.
  • You keep comparing yourself to others.

Know the Source of the Anxiety

Anxiety doesn’t happen without a reason. Somewhere within you, there’s something precipitating that uncomfortable feeling. It isn’t just your test results that are at stake, as severe test anxiety can lead to other mental health issues as well. The first step you need to take after you recognize that you have test anxiety is to identify the source.

Common triggers for test anxiety include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Dwelling on memories of past test failures
  • Not being prepared for the test

Prepare in Advance

You can’t show how well you know the material if in fact, you don’t know it. Cramming at the last minute typically just increases your anxiety without getting much more information into your brain. So, learn the course content as you go. Here’s how to do it:

  • Take good notes
  • Study in small increments as you learn the material
  • Do all the assignments to the best of your abilityAsk questions
  • Test yourself on the subject

Take these steps, and the knowledge will be more firmly planted in your mind. When test time comes, the answers will come more naturally.

Learn Test-Taking Skills

Simply knowing the material doesn’t necessarily guarantee success when it comes to taking an exam. This is especially true when you have test anxiety. Maybe you panic when you see the test because you haven’t developed good test-taking skills. You might be able to get this training through your college’s counselling centre. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Take time to read the directions carefully
  • Start with the questions you know
  • Write a brief outline before you start answering an essay question
  • Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing or systematic muscle relaxation before and during the test as needed

It’s also important to stay positive, take good care of your health, and focus on the test. With the right techniques and help, you can learn to manage the issues that hold you back from doing your best at test time. When you do, you can improve your grades and your mental health at the same time.

For more tips on all things college, check out the other blogs on College Basics.