The University of Texas at Austin
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Tests

Everyone is anxious about tests. Some stress motivates us and enhances our performance. But after a certain point, stress has a negative effect and our performance drops off. Below are some pointers about how to reduce text anxiety before and during an exam.

Learn more about studying for and taking objective tests, written tests, and problem-solving tests.

Before the Exam

  • Stay on top of your studies. Keeping up with your classes, even just for 30 minutes a day, will prevent you from feeling behind, cramming information at the last-minute, and pulling all-nighters.
  • Know the test-day particulars. Find out the time and place of the test and make a list of what you need to bring, like a blue book or No. 2 pencil. Having adequate time means you can gather important materials and you won’t have to rush to your exam.

The Day of the Exam

  • Get your things together. Consult your list of things needed for the exam and check off items as you pack them to take with you.
  • Don’t dwell on absolutes. Worrying about the grading or the difficulty of questions isn’t going to get you far. Try to be positive and think about what you do know.
  • Avoid talking about the exam. This can cause you more anxiety, so keep to yourself or try to change the topic if you are chatting with someone.

During the Exam

  • Plan your approach. Unless specified, you can take the test in the order you want. Skim through when you get it, if you can, and choose an approach. The order is up to you: starting with an easy question can boost your confidence, but you may want to begin with written response questions to give you enough time.
  • Skip if you get stuck. If you can’t think of an answer for a question, mark it and move on. For essay and short-answer questions, jot down what you can recall so you don’t forget. Something might spark your memory during the rest of the test.
  • Ask for clarification. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the professor, teaching assistant, or proctor if you are unclear about the instructions, procedure, question wording, etc.
  • Relax. If you notice that you are not thinking well, it could be due to physical anxiety. Pause for a moment and take several slow, deep breaths. Look away from the test briefly, maybe at the ceiling, floor, or the clock in the room.

After It’s Over

  • Examine the questions that you missed or lost points for. Learn why the correct answer was more appropriate than yours. Were there areas of the test you were not prepared for? Investigate why you were not ready and create a strategy to tackle those areas.
  • Did you know the answer, but fail to read carefully? Gauge difficulty and amount of detail in the test questions. Did most of the questions concern precise details, or main principles or application to new situations? Talk to your professor if you are not sure what to expect on the next test.
  • Were you able to finish the test within the time given? Were you too anxious to focus on the question? Visit Sanger Learning Center for help with test anxiety. Brainstorm other possible reasons for why you were unable to complete the exam. Develop a plan to work on these problems.