How Can I Reduce Test Anxiety?

Simplified test-taking strategies.

Have you ever stayed up all night cramming for a big test, walked into the hall sleep deprived and hungry and managed to ace it? Well, that works for some. However, there is a growing number of students whose palms sweat like a steelworker when a test is mentioned.

Cramming may mean that you know the information forwards and backward, as it somersaults through your brain; it may also mean it is fresh in your mind, but that doesn’t help when you sit down and stare at the test and realize 15 minutes later that the first question is not a trick question nor is it written in a foreign language. You knew the answer a few hours ago, so where did it go. Your mind is a blank page, but you didn’t erase it. What has happened? There are several terms for this phenomenon, but after teaching over ten years I call it test anxiety. And there are ways to conquer or at least squelch it with a few steps.

  • Step 1: Start early, especially for tests that will have a huge impact on your life such as the SAT or ACT. You want to attend a good university and they base their acceptance partially on your score on these tests. So starting early…
  • Step 2: Eat healthily. Fill your body with foods that enhance brain power such as fish, blueberries, whole grains, and nuts and don’t forget if you can’t eat healthy there are supplements you can purchase over the counter that will turn your brain into a mean, lean functioning machine.
  • Step 3: Buy an SAT or ACT study guide if you can afford it. It will have sample sections and sample test questions.
  • Step 4: Begin studying. Yes, it is two weeks before the test, so what? You want to feel your best and be confident and studying the same material over and over again throughout a longer period of time is a proven way to retain it longer.
  • Step 5: Flashcards are a good way to study in a quiz like atmosphere. Make flash cards and have anyone or everyone within reach work with you using them.
  • Step 6: Quiz yourself. Prepare quizzes and take them. Look for quizzes online and take them. Get a friend to create quizzes and take them.
  • Step 7: The night before getting a good night’s sleep. You know everything. Continuing to cram will just make you tired and tiredness can lead to “blank pages” and mistakes. You have prepared for weeks now, so you deserve a good night’s sleep.
  • Step 8: Wake up early enough to get prepared without rushing. Rushing puts you into a stress mode that you do not need this morning.
  • Step 9: Eat a hearty breakfast. Breakfast gets your metabolism going. It helps to reengage the brain to think more clearly. Two items, in moderation, that you might consider are caffeine which will make you more alert and sugar which will give you an energy boost.
  • Step10: Leave with plenty of time to get to the test location. Again, rushing puts you into a stress mode and you do not need to add any more stress.
  • Step 11: Take your seat and look around you and then consciously think that you are alone and studying; Going over your flashcards, taking quizzes and acing them. You have already done this before you are simply going to do it again.
  • Step 12: When the teacher says to begin, take a deep breath and read all the questions and answers in each section before answering them. Then go back and begin the test.

Good Luck!

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