From Freaking Out to Acing the Exam: How to Overcome Test Anxiety


Okay, so get ready for a super long post, here. It’s long, but you’ll be glad that you read it. It’s all about Test Anxiety and how to deal with it.

I remember when I was in school, I used to freak out during tests and exams, and end up not doing as well as I could have. To save you all from a similar fate, I wanted to write down a few of the tips that we offer to students at our college; after all, colleges don’t want to see you fail! I understand how frustrating and discouraging a situation like this is (buh-LEEVE me!), so I’d like to offer study tips to any and all students who may be struggling with test anxiety.

Too much anxiety about a test is commonly referred to as test anxiety. It is perfectly natural to feel some anxiety when preparing for and taking a test.  In fact, a little anxiety can jump start your study mode and keep you motivated; however, too much anxiety can interfere with your studying. You may have difficulty learning and remembering what you need to know for the test.  Furthermore, too much anxiety may block your performance during the test. You may have difficulty demonstrating what you know during the test.

The sheer thought of writing that exam would have freaked me right out a few years ago...still does, but only just a bit now..

So, how do you know if you have test anxiety? If you can answer YES to four or more of the following questions, you probably have it:

  1.  I have a hard time getting started studying for a test.
  2. When studying for a test, I find many things that distract me.
  3. I expect to do poorly on a test no matter how much or how hard I study.
  4. When taking a test, I experience physical discomfort such as sweaty palms, an upset stomach, a headache, difficulty breathing, and tension in my muscles.
  5. When taking a test, I find it difficult to understand the directions and questions.
  6. When taking a test, I have difficulty organising my thoughts.
  7. When taking a test, I often “draw a blank.”
  8. When taking a test, I find my mind wandering to other things.
  9. I usually score lower on a test than I do on assignments and papers.
  10. After a test, I remember information I couldn’t recall during the test.

So, if you have test anxiety, here are some things that you can do about it before, during, and after an exam:

  1. Use good study techniques to gain cognitive mastery of the material that will be covered on the test.  This mastery will help you to approach the test with confidence rather than have excessive anxiety.
  2. Maintain a positive attitude as you study.  Think about doing well, not failing.  Think of the test as an opportunity to show how much you have learned.
  3. Go into the test well rested and well fed.  Get enough sleep the night before the test.  Eat a light and nutritious meal before the test.  Stay away from junk foods.
  4. Stay relaxed during the test.  Taking slow, deep breaths can help.  Focus on positive self-statements such as “I can do this.”
  5. Don’t worry about other students finishing the test before you do.  Take the time that you need to do your best.
  6. Once you finish the test and hand it in, forget about it temporarily.  There is nothing more you can do until the graded test is returned to you.  Turn your attention and effort to new assignments and tests.
  7. When the graded test is returned to you, analyse it to see how you could have done better.  Learn from your mistakes and from what you did well. Apply this knowledge when you take the next test.

Along with the tips provided above, you may also use the DETER strategy to combat test anxiety. Each letter in DETER stands for something in particular to help you remember what to do during an exam:

D = Directions

  • Read the test directions very carefully.
  • Ask your teacher to explain anything about the test directions you do not understand.
  • Only by following the directions can you achieve a good score on the test.
  • If you do not follow the directions, you will not be able to demonstrate what you know.

E = Examine

  • Examine the entire test to see how much you have to do.
  • Only by knowing the entire task can you break it down into parts that become manageable for you.

T = Time

  • Once you have examined the entire test, decide how much time you will spend on each item.
  • If there are different points for items, plan to spend the most time on the items that count for the most points.
  • Planning your time is especially important for essay tests where you must avoid spending so much time on one item that you have little time left for other test items.

E = Easiest

  • The second E in DETER reminds you to answer the items you find easiest first.
  • If you get stuck on a difficult item that comes up early in the test, you may not get to answer items that test things you know.

R = Review

  • If you have planned your time correctly, you will have time to review your answers and make them as complete and accurate as possible.
  • Also make sure to review the test directions to be certain you have answered all items required.

These are just a few tips, but I thought they’d be great to share with you all! Hopefully they will help you and if you would like more study tips, just click here!

Good luck!


13 Responses to “From Freaking Out to Acing the Exam: How to Overcome Test Anxiety”

  1. Great post. I never had test anxiety during a lifetime as a student. I had either prepared or not. But I have seen it my whole life, especially now as a professor. Your tips are really strong. Many students simply fail toput in the time. A 20 minute mtg w/ me makes a huge difference as well.

    • Well, you’re a lucky one! I had test anxiety for every single exam I ever wrote! lol! It was terrible because I’d do so well with my projects, presentations, and papers (nice use of alliteration, eh?) and then freak out over the final. I just thought I’d give a few tips to help others out in hopes that they won’t suffer the same fate. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by, Clay!

      • 3 Amy Walker

        Thank you so much for this post! Having recently returned to full time study I find I have quite an intense test anxiety. Would love any additional info you have for dealing with it as I get so discouraged for not being able to demonstrate the full breadth of my knowledge!!

      • Hi there! So glad that you liked the post, and I certainly hope that it helps you. It’s always important to remember to breathe, remain as calm as possible, and to keep in mind that you’ve studied your material, you know the information, and the test is just a great way to prove to yourself and others just how much you know. 🙂

        Thanks so much for stopping in, and feel free to drop in again soon!

  2. Great post and Great blog!!



    • Thanks so much for dropping by and for the very kind comment, Ava!!

      I’ll be sure to check out your blog as well! 🙂

  3. even though I don’t have that kind of fear or anxiety when taking exams, this post was really useful since Im just taking my last exams before SAT ^^ Whish me luck Christy!!!! 🙂

    Hope you’ve been well, now you know why (again) I’ve been so off wordpress lol.

    Great advices, useful! have a nice day Ch!!

    • Thanks so much, Javi! I hope it helps a little bit and good luck on your exams! 🙂

      P.S. I’ve not had time to be on WP lately either…it’s terrible! I need to write a new post soon…perhaps today! 🙂

  4. 9 Kitty kat

    i absolutely freak out at test and exams i can’t handle it i get really stressed and have many sleepless nights over it. Now i have used this method i feel alot better about going into tests and exams

    Kitty kat

    • 10 Kitty kat

      I also study for examps and tests like way before i should but its whn im in there i cant think

      kitty kay

      • Yes, it can be tough to remember everything during test time, but you must just remember that you have studied enough, that you just need to remain calm, and all of the information will come flooding back again! 🙂

        Thanks for stopping by, Kitty!

    • That’s great, Kitty! I’m glad that it helped! 🙂

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