Test Anxiety

Self Help Resources  Test Anxiety

Signs and Symptoms Of Test Anxiety

At Time of Exam

  • Mind Going Blank
  • Anxiety
  • Heart Pounding
  • Headache
  • Upset Stomach
  • Tense Muscles
  • Very Cold, Sweaty and Sometime Trembling Hands
  • Having Difficulty Reading and Understanding The Questions On The Exam Paper
  • Having Difficulty Retrieving Key Words And Concepts When Answering Essay Questions
  • Doing Poorly On An Exam Even Though You Know The Material
  • Intensely Self-Critical Thoughts, Self-Insults and Self-Damnation After You Have Noticed You Are Blanking Out and Unable To Concentrate

Before The Exam, You Might Experience

  • Pronounced Restlessness Right before the Exam
  • Feelings of Impending Doom about Your Chances of Success in the Exam, Combined With Feelings of Dread about Failing the Exam
  • An Inability to Concentrate or Organize Your Thoughts, Either Prior To or During the Exam

Some Typical Causes of Test Anxiety

  • Being Unprepared For the Test
  • Pressure to Do Well (self, family, others)
  • Sense of Time Pressure
  • Not Knowing How to Take Tests
  • Inability to Stop Anxiety Escalation
  • Non-Test Related Tension
  • Lack of Sleep or Poor Nutrition
  • Assuming That One Test Will Determine Your Future
  • Problems with Attention
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Fear of Failure
  • Poor Organizational Skills
  • Poor Study Habits
  • Competing With Others vs. Focus on Self
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • Learning Disability
  • Using Stimulants to Study
  • Abusing Alcohol or Drugs

What You Can Do

  • Relaxation Techniques: Learn ways to relax before, during, and after exams to help ease tension and stress: Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, even a warm bath are great ways to relieve stress. Exercise is also a very effective anxiety-reducing technique.
  • Keep A Positive Attitude! Utilize positive self-talk and don't catastrophize.
  • Effective Studying Can Greatly Reduce Test Anxiety: Find where you study best and use it!
  • Take Reasonable Breaks: usually about 5 or 10 minutes per hour.
  • Show Up For Every Class and Participate In Discussion or By Asking Questions
  • Keep Up On Readings And Assignments: getting behind produces anxiety.
  • Study A Small Amount Each Day To Improve Retention: Avoid cramming.
  • Interact with the Material in Several Different Ways: Read, outline, take and review notes, use flash cards, make diagrams, join a study group or find a study partner.
  • Quiz Yourself After Reading Each Section Then Again At The End Of Each Chapter: Memory of readings at 2 weeks is about 20%. Self-testing once improves memory to about 55%, and twice improves memory to about 75%.
  • Find Someone Who Will Simulate A Test With You: Each make-up questions and take each other's test.
  • Ask the Instructor about Their Previous Tests to Identify Their Testing Style

Contact the Learning Center (826-5217) on campus or CAPS (826-3236) for further information on test anxiety, reducing anxiety levels, and test taking skills.

Test Taking Skills

Short Answer Tests

  • Budget Your Time
  • Do the Easier Questions First
  • Answer Each Question
  • Use the Full Time Allowed


  • Read All Questions First
  • Answer Difficult Questions Last
  • Make Sure You Understand the Question
  • Briefly Outline Before Writing

Objective Exams

  • Make Sure You Understand the Question
  • Answer Questions in the Order Given
  • Take Time to Consider Your Choice
  • If Unsure Of an Answer, You May Get a Clue in a Later Question: Return Later

Some Places to Consider

For Help with Study or Test Taking Skills

Internet Resources

Campus Blues

Information about challenges and issues faced by college students.

Go Ask Alice

Interactive web-site from the Columbia University Health Services. Includes lively answers to questions commonly asked by college students in many areas, including general health, sexuality, fitness and nutrition, drugs and alcohol, relationships, and emotional well-being.

Learning Center

The Learning Center offers a comprehensive program of services to support the academic needs of Humboldt students. These services are for every type of student: from first year to graduate student, from students struggling to stay in school to students trying for straight A's, and from local Humboldt County students to international students.

Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection

A selection of pamphlets dealing with anxiety found on the Unabridged Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection.s

Study Habits & Test Anxiety

A guide from the University of Buffalo that provides tips for better study habits and decreased test anxiety.

Self Help Resources  Test Anxiety