Practical Ways to Overcome Testing Anxiety
Attention: Test Takers
If you experience test anxiety or know someone who has test anxiety, then you know the overwhelming feeling that seems to paralyze you, preventing you from moving forward and achieving your dreams and goals.
The good thing is that you can overcome testing anxiety before your next test. Check out these testing anxiety tips below!
Keep in mind that opinions are my own and you may not agree with all of them!
What is testing anxiety:
A mix of responses in your body (both physical and emotional) that prevent you from doing well on an exam. (SOURCE)
What can trigger test anxiety/Causes of test anxiety:
- Perfectionism (I’m guilty of this…and it’s not a trait I am fond of.)
- High expectations (which ties into perfectionism)
- Fear of failing (Guilty here too!)
- Poor confidence (🙋♀️)
- Self-doubt (🙋♀️)
- Subpar performance on previous tests (🙋♀️)
These causes mentioned above are probably why you have testing anxiety.
Maybe you are like me and set really high expectations for yourself. Or maybe you have a fear of failing and as soon as you start something new, you think of all the ways it can go bad.
It’s very discouraging because this can limit you from doing things that really matter to you!
I deal with these on a daily basis and it’s not fun. Thankfully, I have made improvements – I am a work in progress. 🙂
Symptoms of testing anxiety:
I’m listing the symptoms that I have instead of ALL the textbook symptoms.
Can you relate to any of mine? Let me know in the comments!
- Almost paralyzing fear
- Rapid heartrate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Negative thoughts (especially thinking/expecting the worst)
- Procrastinating ** this one is a biggy – you’ll read why a little later in the post.
- Poor concentration
- Feeling guilty
A couple of my friends also have testing anxiety. I guess since we are all in a similar career path – pre-med/pre-dental – it seems to be common among some of us.
Other common and more serious symptoms (which I have not experienced, thankfully) include:
- Panic attacks
- Total loss of sleep
- Feeling you’re about to faint
- Racing thoughts
- And many more…
Why is testing anxiety bad:
Testing anxiety is debilitating because I know I can do better and I know I know the material, but my physical and emotional reactions are so overbearing that my logic is out the window.
Therefore, I’m not able to focus on a question and reason my way to the right answer or recall everything that I studied. I’d second guess my answers because I have so much self-doubt.
I could have had the best study experience, but because of testing anxiety, it is as if all of my studying has been erased from my mind or either jumbled up. It is truly a paralyzing fear.
Here is my Free Test Taking Anxiety Treatment: What you can do to overcome testing anxiety!
These are things I did this semester to deal with testing anxiety that actually worked.
1. I took deep breaths.
2. I reminded myself that my performance on this test does NOT define me.
It doesn’t define my future. It doesn’t define if I am smart or not. Only God can define who I am and where I go because I have put my faith in Him. I can ONLY do my best.
Saying this felt liberating.
3. I prayed AND read my bible BEFORE I began studying for my classes.
This was my prayer:
“God, please help me get straight As, but most importantly, please help me work as hard as I need to to get straight As. You have my future in your hands. You know I want to become a doctor, but Your will be done, and I choose whatever career path You have for me. Please help me to work hard.”
4. I created a list of bible promises which I would read aloud and made them personal by adding “I” or “me.”
We can easily forget who God is and the promises He has made out of love for us.
5. I reminded myself of my past blessings and successes.
If anything negative came to mind, I reminded myself of blessings and I prayed right then for God to be merciful and help me with my current exams.
Ways to Overcome Test Taking Anxiety continued…
6. I would journal how I felt and my fears.
Putting it down on paper felt liberating (like #2 did). It was as if I was offloading my fears onto the paper instead of keeping them on me.
7. I began studying way in advance of my test dates.
Procrastination is a HUGE ENEMY – don’t let it win. Fight back. When you get ahead and stay on top of your study schedule, you feel more at ease and more positive about how you’ll do.
Get behind and you’ll feel more stressed. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. And I hated it – don’t want to do that again!
Here’s the key: if you are wondering whether you should do this now or later, the right answer will most likely be NOW lol.
8. I figured out which study method works for me and stuck with it. I had different study methods for each class, but it worked out well!
For instance, I realized that for my gross anatomy lecture, I couldn’t rewrite the lecture notes like I did for biochemistry. For gross anatomy, I made up my own test questions to help me retain the information. It worked!
So figure out what is YOUR best study method and stick to it. And if you are like me, you may have different study methods for each class, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever works!
9. I’d make sure to complete my study guides for each exam before the week of exams, which meant that I would only have to review my study guides during exam week.
No scrambling through lecture notes because that adds to testing anxiety. Everything is already done so all I need to do is review. Whew! Smooth sailing!
10. I would seek encouragement from a friend or a loved one.
They’d cheer me on. And it helped. Find at least two good friends or family members who will help you stay positive as you try to overcome test anxiety.
Reward yourself, but limit distractions
11. Take mini breaks in between your study sessions.
I would have a study session for about 1 or 2 hours followed by 20 to 30 minutes of relaxation: I’d watch a silly show, exercise, nap, or do something entertaining.
I wouldn’t let anything interrupt my focus while studying – not a call or a text, not my fiancé or parents. Nothing.
As a result, my reward would be a mini break.
(In the beginning, I would feel guilty about taking a break, but I don’t feel guilty about taking breaks anymore. After all, my brain needs a break. :))
12. Stop yourself from going on social media (even during the study breaks).
It may actually hinder your focus. Read this study.
For example, I think Instagram has a very powerful effect on our brains. Listen to my reasoning behind this:
I took an almost 4-week break from IG to focus on my studies, and I went back on it today.
Once I left the app, my mind was having a hard time staying focused on a task because my eyes/thoughts were moving faster than I wanted to. I think IG scrolling has that effect.
(That’s just my own theory based on my own experience)
If you are immune to social media, then ignore this point! 🙂
In short, there is no magic formula to overcoming testing anxiety except…
to figure out what works best for you!
Try taking initiative with these few practical tips and don’t allow your mind run wild with negativity/your fears.
You got this! If you put in the effort, you’ll see the rewards!
And above all, God rewards hard work! Let me show you some bible verses on that:
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established. Proverbs 16:3
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Do you have testing anxiety? What helps or makes it worse?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
And don’t forget to share with someone who may be struggling with test taking anxiety 🙂
See more posts below:
Things to do when you are bored and stuck at home
Getting through hard times in life