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DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRS
educating -eadaersfor a GobaafCommunity
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
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 course."
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.
> Visualize yourself doing well and
reaching your goals.
> Aim for an A level of understanding.
Don't overprotect yourself by saying
you'll be lucky to get a C, so why study
> Try not to compare yourself with others.
> Become 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
> Practice relaxing (progressive
relaxation, self-hypnosis, guided
imagery, etc.) so that relaxation
becomes an automatically learned
> 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.
> Take care of yourself by eating well and
getting enough sleep.
> Plan time to exercise regularly and do
TEST TAKING STRATEGIES
> Take a practice test the day before with
conditions as much like the test as
> Review your summary sheets for an
overall view of the material. Recite in
your own words.
> Get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine
(which increases anxiety).
> Remember to encourage yourself via
positive self-talk, and to STOP critical
> Give 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
> 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
> List the resources that are available:
free tutors, Reading and Writing Center,
> List at least three specific steps that
you can take now to meet your goals.
(Check those suggestions you plan to
> 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
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-