How to Handle Test Anxiety

by | May 01, 2023

 By Will Kanter, Marketing Associate 

It is final exam day, but what is this? You overslept and showed up late, you completely forgot to study, and you are still in your pajamas. If you have ever had a nightmare like this, then you are familiar with test anxiety. Odds are most of your peers have experienced it as well, each in their own way. Naturally, academic stressors like big projects and looming deadlines are a contributing factor to test anxiety, but non-academic stressors like money and work can play a role as well.  

Here are some strategies to help you minimize test anxiety as you prepare for finals: 

Before the Test

  1. Set up a quiet, well-lit study environment where you can work undistracted. Consider putting your phone on silent so you are not tempted to check it. 

  1. When preparing for multiple tests, make sure you are setting aside time for each subject. Study a little at a time instead of cramming the night before the test(s). 

  1. Take stock of what you have learned in class. Which areas of the material are you comfortable with and which ones do you need to review? 

  1. Try creating a study guide based on what the test might look like. Pay close attention to names, dates, lists, and other potentially relevant information. 

  1. Take a break when you need one. Go for a walk, eat a snack, or practice deep breathing. Get a good night’s sleep before the day of the test. 

During the Test

  1. Accept that you have done what you can to prepare. Focus on what you do know instead of worrying about what you do not know. Try to arrive a little early. 

  1. If the test format allows it, consider answering the questions you feel confident about first. This might help you gain insight into the ones you are less sure of. 

  1. Make sure you do not spend too much time on any one question. If you find yourself truly stuck, it can be better to write the wrong answer than nothing at all.  

  1. Remember to take deep breaths throughout the test. If you find yourself tensing up, take a moment to relax your tension-holding muscles. 

  1. Once you have answered every question to the best of your ability, go through the test and double-check your answers if you have time. Turn in your test and be done with it. 

After the Test

  1. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Regardless of your final grade, taking a test that you studied hard for is something to be proud of. 

  1. Reflect on the efficiency of your study habits. What worked well for you? What might you do differently for your next test? 

  1. Give yourself a reward – watch your favorite comfort show or order food from your favorite restaurant. 

  1. Even if you did not do as well as you would have liked, remember that one test is unlikely to ruin your academic career. 

  1. Take heart in knowing you are that much better prepared for the next test. 

Finals are almost here! For more test-preparation techniques, check out this post from UIUC’s Admissions Blog: Best Study Tips for College