5 Tips for Students Who Suffer from Testing Anxiety


Testing anxiety is a psychological condition, characterized by feelings of overwhelming dread, hypertension, self-deprecation, and other symptoms when an individual is placed in a testing situation. Testing anxiety causes students who suffer from it to underperform at a level which drastically affects their academic success. A student with testing anxiety may earn average or above average scores on all homework assignments, and yet may “fail” a course due to what appear to be uncharacteristically low scores on all quizzes, tests, and exams. Although testing anxiety is what some might consider a “blanket diagnosis” for a wide variety of symptoms, here we have made available several tried and true methods for reducing testing anxiety’s most common causes.

1. Avoid drinking caffeine before and during tests

Caffeine is a stimulant drug, which is often used to make people feel more “alert” and “awake.” Although it does have these effects, it is important to note that, as a stimulant, in increases an individual’s heart rate, and therefore can make someone who is already experiencing mild anxiety have a full on panic attack. If, however, a student with testing anxiety normally consumes a consistent amount of caffeine on a daily basis, it is important that he or she does not disrupt their regular routine. If you suffer from testing anxiety and, for example, normally drink a cup of coffee before class every morning, it may actually be harmful for you to forgo it for test day.

2. Study a little bit each day

To put it in the simplest terms: if someone feels like they are not prepared for a test, they most likely are not. “Cramming” two dozen formulas and definitions into your brain a half hour before the test begins is not a healthy behavior. Instead, try studying for one or two hours each day in the weeks prior to the exam, until you feel like you have mastered the material. This is particularly helpful if the teacher has provided the students with a study guide. If the teacher has not done so, students should go over past homework assignments to see if they still remember how to do them.

3. Take a practice test

A practice test is a “mock” test, comprised of questions similar to but not identical to the questions on the actual test. Sometimes teachers and professors will give their students with practice tests. If not, students can always create their own practice tests from questions on old homework assignments and the “chapter review” sections in their textbooks. While taking a practice test, a student with testing anxiety should try to recreate the environment in which they will take the actual test. If you experience testing anxiety, see if your teacher will allow you to take a practice test while sitting in the same seat that you normally occupy during class.

4. Time Yourself

If, like many students who suffer from testing anxiety, your mind “blanks” (that is, you completely forget everything) as soon as the teacher says “begin” and the clock starts ticking, perhaps your testing anxiety stems from the pressure of being timed. If this is the case, desensitization may be the answer to your problem. Desensitization is a process that slowly reduces an individual’s response to negative stimuli by exposing them to increasingly larger doses of said stimuli over an extended period of time. So, if you suffer from a fear of being “timed,” try timing yourself, using a stopwatch or the clock on your phone, as you solve each homework problem. Keep track of your records, and set “time goals” for yourself. An individual with testing anxiety might see their anxiety completely vanish within a matter of weeks if they follow this method.

5. See if the school has a “Student Access Services” program

Many modern colleges and universities have special programs to help accommodate students with disabilities. A student who suffers from testing anxiety is suffering from a disability, and as such has a right to seek accommodation as well. If you feel that your testing anxiety is caused by the pressure of “timed” tests, or taking tests which surrounded by other students, this option may be the best for you. You will need to be psychologically evaluated, and you will have to provide someone at the school (typically a student councilor) with a note from your medical physician.

Do you have any other tips? Share them, please.