Dealing with Test Anxiety

Do you panic before a test? Does your mind go blank during the test?

You may have test anxiety, which can cause you to lose concentration and interfere with your ability to remember information.

If you are adequately prepared for an exam, mild test anxiety will be reduced. Even if you are prepared, it is quite common to get nervous before a test; the key to success is learning how to control your fear, which can be done through relaxation.

Try these exercises before your tests to help calm down (Kanar, 2001):

Muscle Relaxation:
Close your eyes, search for tension in your body. Focus on tense areas and release the tension (e.g., hunched shoulders,clenched teeth).
Deep Breathing:
Sit or lie down, close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few moments. Focus on relaxing your muscles starting with your toes and working up to your neck.
Focus on nothing. It's harder than it sounds, but try to think of nothing. Remember to breathe and just empty your mind of all thoughts. Before you know it you'll be relaxed.

In some cases, students are not able to get beyond the anxiety, no matter the amount of preparation. Symptoms of severe test anxiety include panic, sweating, fainting and nausea. If you are experiencing these things, you should contact the Health and Counseling Services immediately. They will be able to help determine the cause of your anxiety and ways to eliminate it. Another valuable resource could be the Disability Access office. Often it helps to know what's causing your anxiety, and then eliminating it.

Do any of these causes sound familiar? If so, try the corresponding eliminator (Kanar, 2001):

Trying to meet others' expectations Decide whether living up to these expectations is something you want to do for YOURSELF. Set your OWN goals and live up to your OWN expectations.
Letting grades determine your self-worth Emphasize performance over grades. Take control by tracking performance to overcome weaknesses.
Inadequate preparation & guilt So you weren't prepared this time. Keep your goal in sight and resolve to do better.
Feeling helpless, with no control over what happens The way to take control is to develop an internal locus of control. Improve your study habits. Prepare for your next test and observe the connection between the amount and quality of your studying and the grade you receive.

For specific reference information, see Study Strategies page.
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