301 Peabody Hall
DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRS
OVERCOMING TEST ANXIETY
Test anxiety is an uneasiness or apprehension
experienced before, during, or after an
examination because of concern, worry, or fear.
Almost everyone experiences some anxiety.
But some students find that anxiety interferes
with their learning and test taking to such an
extent that their grades are seriously affected.
What can be done about it?
Fortunately, there is a great deal that you can
do to keep the anxiety from interfering with
your performance. First, it's important to know
that you don't have to eliminate it entirely. It
helps to be "up" for exams. You just want to
reduce the anxiety to a manageable level.
Getting prepared for the exam is more than
half the battle. Attend all of your classes, find
out what you're expected to know and when
the exams are scheduled. Keep up with your
work so that you can avoid "cramming" for
exams. Become more efficient in your study
habits. Have a study schedule that makes use
of "wasted time". Study in a location where
you can concentrate, get interested in the
material, and give it your complete attention.
Use a method such as SQ3R (Survey, Question,
Read, Recite, Review) for reading your
textbooks. Make flashcards and review them
often. Learn how to take good notes. Go over
them right after class and review periodically.
Make outlines and summary sheets. Ask
yourself, "What is the important information?"
Being in a study group with motivated
classmates is often helpful. Most colleges have
Reading and Writing Centers to help you
improve your study and test taking skills. Free
tutoring is also usually available. In general,
organized, self-confident students with efficient
study habits may actually spend less time
studying than others who receive lower grades.
SO HOW DO YOU GET TO BE SELF
Self talk. Research shows that the self-talk of
test-anxious students almost always tends to
be negative and self-defeating. "Everyone in
this class is smarter and faster than I am." "I
always mess up on tests." "If I don't do well on
this exam, then I'll flunk the course." 'These
are trick questions." 'This is a weed-out
Become aware of what you say to yourself. Try
writing your negative thoughts and then
disputing each one with a positive statement.
Start to encourage yourself as you would a
friend. Repeating your positive statements to
yourself will help reprogram your mind for
success instead of for failure.
SVisualize yourself doing well and reaching
SAim for an A level of understanding. Don't
overprotect yourself by saying you'll be
lucky to get a C, so why study more?
STry not to compare yourself with others.
SBecome an expert in learning what is
going well and what you can do to
improve. Collect data by keeping a
> Reward yourself after studying instead of
getting involved in avoidance behaviors.
> Practice relaxing (progressive relaxation,
self-hypnosis, guided imagery, etc.) so
that relaxation becomes an automatically
S Aim for a state of relaxed concentration.
When you concentrate, you have all of
your energy focused on your work with
none wasted on worry.
STake care of yourself by eating well and
getting enough sleep.
SPlan time to exercise regularly and do it.
TEST TAKING STRATEGIES
STake a practice test the day before with
conditions as much like the test as
SReview your summary sheets for an
overall view of the material. Recite in your
SGet enough sleep. Avoid caffeine (which
SRemember to encourage yourself via
positive self-talk, and to STOP critical
SGive yourself plenty of time to feel
composed and to arrive on time for the
exam. Avoid anxious classmates who are
talking about the exam.
> Look over the entire test, READ THE
DIRECTIONS, plan your approach, and
schedule your time.
> Start with the easiest question first.
> Focus your attention on the test. Don't
waste time and energy worrying, thinking
about the consequences of not doing well,
or wondering what others are doing.
> If you don't know an answer, mark the
> Suggest to yourself that you probably
studied it and the answer will come to you
when you get back to it.
> If you start to feel anxious, practice your
relaxation techniques. Use anxiety as a
cue to relax. Close your eyes, take three
deep breaths and then back to the task.
Essay Exams. Organize your thoughts in a brief
outline. Look for key words such as compare,
contrast, describe, identify. Start with a short
summary or topical sentence and then make
your points. Don't ramble. Remember what
the professor emphasized.
Objective Exams. Think of your own answer
before looking at the choices provided.
Eliminate clearly wrong answers and make an
educated guess (unless there is a severe
penalty for wrong answers). Think about only
one question at a time. After you have
answered those you know, return to those you
> If your time is running out, concentrate on
those questions you know well and/or
have the most weight.
> Use all the time allowed for reviewing your
answers, completing ideas. Only change
answers if you are sure of yourself.
Reward yourself for having tried. Don't
immediately go over the test questions
with others. No matter how the test went,
you can learn from the returned exam.
> List the resources that are available: free
tutors, Reading and Writing Center, etc.
> List at least three specific steps that you
can take now to meet your goals. (Check
those suggestions you plan to follow).
> If you are still experiencing test anxiety
after using these suggestions, you may
want to meet with a counselor. For
additional information regarding services,
see www.counsel.ufl.edu, or call 392-1575.
Barbara Probert, Ph.D., Author
Jaquelyn Liss Resnick, Ph.D., Series Editor
University of Florida Counseling Center
301 Peabody Hall
For students with disabilities, this publication is
available in alternate formats. Please contact the
Counseling Center at 392-1575. Students with hearing
or speech impairments, please call the Florida Relay
Service (FRS) at (800) 955-8771 (TDD).