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Paul L. Foster Success Center

Baylor > Office of Academic Support Programs > Study Strategies > Improving Your Study Skills > Test Anxiety Strategies


Test Anxiety


Preparing for the test

• Begin studying 5 to 7 days before the test. The brain needs time to consolidate and absorb what you are studying. Avoid "cramming."

• Get plenty of sleep the night before the test. Lack of sleep + stress causes your body to produce a chemical that blocks memory recall.

• Don't overplay the importance of the grade– it is not a reflection of your worth and does not predict future success.

• Counter negative thought with positive thoughts such as, "I can do this. I know this material."

• Predict and write test questions. Practice answering them in a simulated test environment to desensitize yourself to the test situation.

• Plan a tangible way to reward for yourself for being prepared and doing your best.

Day of the test

• Eat a moderate breakfast. Avoid coffee; it can give you the "jitters."

• Conclude study and do something relaxing one hour before the test. Taking a shower can help you relax.

• Lie on the floor in your room and tense your whole body. Slowly release each muscle group and focus on relaxation of your entire body.

• Arrive early to allow time to get materials ready for the test.

• Select a seat away from doors, windows, or other distractions.

• Don't review with your friends just prior to the test or listen to cramming going on around you.

• Listen to music or read the paper to distract yourself if waiting for the test to begin causes anxiety.

During the test

• Review the entire test. Read the directions twice. Work the easiest portion first.

• If you feel panicked, turn the test over and take 5-10 deep breaths until you feel calm again. Repeat at any time you feel panic.

• Make sure you can see the clock- plan your time, and pace yourself.

• Focus on answering the questions, not on your grade or another's performance.

• Use positive self-talk. Tell yourself, "I can do this."

• Ignore people who finish before you. If they knew as much as you, they would still be writing.

• If time is short, fill in the answers you know and let it go.

• After the test, reward yourself for your effort whether you feel you did well or not.

Sources of Test Anxiety

Being unprepared. Knowing you have not put in enough time and effort into studying for the test is one source of anxiety. Cramming increases anxiety.

Past Experience. Failing to succeed in the past may cause anxiety. Negative self-talk statements such as "I am never going to get this right" and ‘I don't know any of this" increase anxiety. Talk to yourself as you would to your dear friend you were trying to encourage. Positive self-talk is proven to reduce anxiety and increase success.

Fear of Failure. You may fear disappointing parents, losing your scholarship, or not being able to live up to your own standards. Linking your academic performance to your self-worth may increase anxiety. A test is not a measurement of your value as a person.

For more information email Trish_Baum@baylor.edu


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