Anxious for exams? Reduce stress with these tips

Does preparing for a test feel as scary as writing it? Read on. Feeling anxious about tests is common in universitybut here are lots of strategies you can try to help manage those feelings.

What is test anxiety? 

Test anxiety is feeling anxious about writing a test or exam. It comes from the fear of not doing well, but more specifically:

  • not knowing the answers to questions
  • not having prepared enough
  • not being able to remember material you studied

Tests and exams are stressful because they are often high stakes they can be worth a lot of your grade and impact your GPA. The test environment itself can also be tense, so it’s understandable to feel anxious before an exam. Try these strategies to help!

Test-taking strategies to reduce test anxiety 

Practice strong study habits throughout the term 

These habits help you understand the material and get help as early as possible:

  •   Attend lectures, participate in class discussions and complete assignments
  • Seek help from TAs, instructors and Peer Success Coaches to develop skills and strategies for test-taking
  • Organize your notes and review them carefully before tests (Need help with notes? Check out what to include in review notes for exams)
  • Talk to your instructor and TA about concepts you don’t understand
  • Complete practice exams from your instructor 

Give yourself enough study time 

Knowing and feeling like you spent enough time studying for a test can give you confidence. Because tests are usually scheduled, you can backwards plan how much time you need each day or week to go through the test material. Need help creating a study schedule? Book an appointment with a Peer Success Coach. 

Protect the final hour before the test 

It can be tempting to cram new material you didn’t have time to review during the final hour before a test. Try to avoid this — it can increase your stress and anxiety. Instead, simply focus on content you studied well. Better yet, use the hour before the test to calm your nerves if you feel anxious. Try going for a quick walk, listening to music or having a snack to recharge for your test or exam.

Prepare for environmental distractions 

Sometimes background noises are unavoidable during tests and exams for example, chairs moving, students leaving the room and noise from the hallway. If this impacts your concentration, practice focusing with some background noise (try the library or Student Life Centre) before your test. You could also bring earplugs to your exam.

Take the time you need to finish 

Do you ever find yourself noticing when other students are handing in their exams and feeling nervous about how far along you are? Try not to compare yourself  everyone has a different pace for writing tests. If you need all the allotted time to complete your exam, use it. That’s why the time is available for you.

Practice positive self-talk 

Be kind to yourself — you have to be your own cheerleader sometimes and that’s the case with exams. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just try some simple phrases:

“I can do this.”

“I know the information.”

“I studied as well as I could with the time I had.”

I am doing my best.” 

Sometimes, the anxious feeling you’re having before a test or exam can feel really overwhelming. You’re not alone. If you need support, reach out to a friend, relative, your instructor or Campus Wellness, Counselling Services — they offer same day counselling appointments every Wednesday and Thursday.