How to Tackle Test Anxiety

By: Sai Igiede, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Well-being Leader

Hey guys, it’s your local well-being leader, Sai, and today I want to talk about anxiety, specifically when it comes to exams. 

As a health science major, I know what it feels like to have exams and quizzes every week to the point where it becomes overwhelming with how much material you have to retain for each class. I am going to do my best to help you ease that pre and post-test anxiety by providing you with much-needed advice. 

Pre-Test Anxiety

Do your best to study with a healthy mindset. Studying is hard and everyone must learn to study in their own way. Studying with a positive attitude can have many benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. A prime example of this is when I first started studying chemistry, I let other people’s perceptions of the class alter my performance. “The class is insanely hard” or “You’re not going to pass” were things I heard from people often. I then started to internalize what they were saying and began to have a more negative outlook on chemistry, which truly reflected in my work. I began to dread the idea of the class and it wasn’t until I stopped listening to people’s opinions on the class and started to be more open-minded that my test scores began to improve. 

Mid-Test Anxiety 

Often what follows pre-test anxiety is mid-test anxiety. Not everyone experiences this, but those who do understand how difficult it is to break out of it, especially if you feel underprepared for an exam. Here are the steps that often help me get out of this funk:

  1. Go Slower than you need to. What some people do, myself included, is go slower during tests. This not only helps you focus on yourself and not the people around you but also helps you prevent small errors in your work. 
  2. Double-check answers BUT don’t overcheck them. This often adds to the pre-existing anxiety you may be experiencing.
  3. Give yourself positive encouragement throughout the exam. I just started doing this and it has helped me a bunch. I am someone who often has a lot of self-doubt during tests, so being able to push myself but also recognizing what I am doing is hard helps me center myself 

Post-Test Anxiety 

This type of anxiety often happens when you turn in your exam. As previously stated, this doesn’t happen to everyone but if it does, it is not a good feeling. The constant correcting of your answers in your head or the anxiety of waiting for your exam score to be returned is hard to overcome. Here are some things I do to not fall into this trap:

  1. Treat yourself after your exam to relieve anxiety.
  2. Debrief with the professor either before or after the score is released to see if your mistakes could have been prevented (if any were made).
  3. Tell yourself positive affirmations that will help ease your anxiety.
  4. Distract yourself with something that brings you joy, whether that playing video games or taking walks
  5. If the stress is starting to worsen, talk to someone who can give you positive feedback and can give you advice (a prime example is our Well-Being Leaders!). 

Test anxiety is hard for everyone, whether you go through all three of these stages or only one. All of these suggestions may not work for you and that is fine! We all work and operate differently, so what may work for one person may not work for someone else. As long as you are trying your best to be a better version of your current self, that is all that matters, and I applaud you for that! 

Until next time,