menu
William and Mary
search

Reducing Test Anxiety

A little anxiety before a test improves your concentration and alertness. Excessive worrying, or test anxiety can lower your test score.

It is possible for students with test anxiety to get themselves so worked up that they can’t think clearly. The brain, like a computer, contains a great deal of information. This information is useless, however, if you’re not able to access it when you need it. Having test anxiety is like not having the password to your computer. The information is there, but you can’t get to it.

To reduce test anxiety, study enough to feel confident that you know the material. Then try to replace the worry and negative thinking with thoughts that are positive and relaxing. These suggestions may help.

  • Start studying early. The night before a test, review the material and get a good night’s sleep. Cramming only increases test anxiety.
  • Mentally practice going through the testing experience. Close your eyes and see yourself walking confidently into the test, answering the questions correctly, and receiving the grade you want.
  • Walk into the test with your head up and your shoulder back. If you act confident, you just may find that you feel more confident. Tell yourself that you are ready and that you’re going to do fine.
  • Try these four relaxation techniques:

                    1. Take a deep breath. Then slowly release your breath, along with any tension. Do this until you feel your body relax.

                    2. Start at the top of your head, flex, and then relax each part of your body.

                    3. Close your eyes and visualize warm sunshine washing over you, melting away the tension and relaxing all of your muscles.

                    4. Think if a place where you feel very relaxed and calm. Close your eyes and visualize being in that place.

The more you practice positive thinking and relaxation techniques, the better you’ll get at using them. If you continue to have problems with test anxiety, talk to your advisor or to a counselor. Libraries and bookstores also have materials that may be helpful.

Source: “How To Get Good Grades In College” by Linda O’Brien