Test Anxiety: How To Study For A Test

a scantron test on a desk with a pencil. Some student have test anxiety when they see a scantron.

Being nervous before a test is absolutely normal, but some students have real test-taking anxiety which can cause a lot of distress and ultimately impact their grades. However, everyone can be a good test taker. Studies have shown frequent test-taking has shown to reduce test anxiety and builds confidence in the student. The more tests you take the better you get! Try some of the suggestions below and see if they help.

1. Prepare For The Test

You’ve heard it a thousand times, preparation is key. Preparation is what creates the plan for success. There really is no substitute for being prepared. You will be able to handle any unforeseen problems or issues if you are prepared. Being prepared also helps reduce stress and anxiety.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin.

This means preparing early for your test instead of cramming last minute. Start studying a week or so before the test. I know this can feel time-consuming but scheduling in a few hours here and there will be worth it. Additionally, reviewing the material gets you ready for the test. It also allows you to notice if you are missing notes, quizzes, theory, a specific concept, etc. Then you have time to get clarification.

2. Create A Study Plan Or Study Schedule

Having a study plan is important for success on a test because it will give you confidence that you are not only prepared but also have reviewed all the necessary material. Creating a study plan is nothing more than setting aside time to study for your exam.

Having a plan is helpful, especially when trying to fit in extra time for studying. Balancing work, school, family, and other responsibilities are difficult for busy college students already, add in scheduling more study time, can be stressful. Therefore, prioritize what’s important to ensure you get the most out of your study plan. Prioritize what you need to study a little more, rather than reviewing what you already know.

3. Study Smarter, Not Harder

I want you to study efficiently. This means I want you to use all the resources you have. Look over your homework. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but often students overlook this. There’s a reason your professor has you do it, it’s what you need to learn and know. If you aren’t doing the homework, you won’t be able to understand and learn the material you are supposed to be studying.

Be sure to go over your textbook and notes. Use flashcards or note cards to master the subject. Go over old quizzes to prepare for the test. Oftentimes, quiz questions are test questions. Reach out to classmates. It’s a good idea to review the test material with other students to help with retention.

Knowing, How To Get Good Grades In College, has some great study tips and will provide additional tools to help you with text anxiety.

4. Take Care Of Yourself

Exercise. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep. These are known as the 3 pillars of health for a reason. It is through them you will have the energy and focus to get through your exam.

Eating a balanced and healthful diet and having a good fitness routine are vital for any college student. They increase energy, help with focus and concentration, and improve your immune system. Conversely, an unbalanced diet can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, moodiness, and even depression—not good characteristics for test taking.

Eat well and drink plenty of water leading up to the test day and on the test day. Feed your brain and your body. Studies have shown high anxiety can increase the impact of caffeine. It may be best to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume on test day as it can make you jittery and cause more anxiety.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Sleep is essential to being alert and it is directly correlated with academic performance. You want to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

5. Reach Out To Your Professor

I can’t state this enough, professors are a valuable resource who are often not fully utilized. Your College Professors Are Important. They want students to learn, grow and succeed in their classroom. Every professor holds office hours at least once a week, giving students a chance to drop in. Meet with your professor and let him/her know that you have test anxiety. Perhaps they can give you advice or reassurance. Ask what the tests are like, they just may explain it. Your professor might also be able to suggest to you their opinion as to the best resources to study, after all, they know what they put on the test.

I met with almost every one of my professors during office hours, I even had a professor who was willing to review and grade my papers before I submitted them because I visited during office hours. Your professors want you to succeed, you just need to reach out and ask.

Male in a classroom raising his hand to ask a question. He is asking a question to reduce his test anxiety.

6. Start With The Questions You Know

Answer the questions you know first and skip difficult questions. You can come back to them later. The answer may come to you, or the test may provide clues and give you additional information. Sometimes, answers are hidden in other questions.

If the question is multiple choice, use the process of elimination when you don’t know the answer. Cross out the answers you know are incorrect and then focus on the remaining answers. This strategy typically gives you a fifty-fifty chance of answering correctly.

7. Slow Down And Take Your Time On The Test

Slowing down will help you stay calm and focused. When you slow down you can read each test question carefully. If you feel yourself starting to rush, take a few deep breaths. It’s okay to close your eyes and give yourself a moment if necessary. Ignore students who finish earlier. Often the students who finish last are the ones who get the better scores.

8. Stay Positive

Keep a positive attitude. This is only one test. It doesn’t define you. College is a journey, and this is only a small part of it. Believe in yourself and be proud of all you are accomplishing. Remind yourself that you are prepared, you’ve studied hard, and you know the material. If you need a little motivation, How Students Can Create The Motivation For Success is a great guide.