School of Nursing

Academic Success Program

Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety

Prior to an exam, most students experience some degree of anxiety. Feelings of nervousness before a test is to be expected. It is the body's normal biological and psychological response to stress. However, for some students, anxiety can impact their ability to concentrate and perform successfully on exams. When this occurs, it is important to engage in behaviors and activities that will reduce or eliminate feelings of anxiety and enhance performance on an exam.

What are the symptoms of test anxiety?


The following are strategies to help you reduce test anxiety:


  • Preparation. Part of preparation is developing good study habits. Preparing in advance for tests will prove beneficial in reducing anxiety. Do not memorize your material, instead study to learn the material thoroughly. Organize your notes so that time allotted for studying is not squandered on organizing your notes. Identify your learning style and incorporate study strategies that support your learning style.

  • Time Management. A successful student has learned how to effectively manage time. Creating flexible schedules, to-do lists, rewards for completing tasks, scheduling personal time, and avoiding external stressors can help with reducing anxiety.

  • Reflect on past successes. Reflecting on past achievements can help build confidence and serve as a reminder that success is not out of reach. If you were successful once on a test, you can be successful again. Reflecting on the behaviors and strategies that influenced your success on a previous test can help you identify long term strategies for future success.

  • Develop a routine. Establishing a pre-test routine can be useful in reducing test anxiety. You must learn what works for you to reduce anxiety and make it part of your pre-test routine.

  • Embrace behavioral relaxation techniques. Integrating relaxation techniques into your pre-test routine can help you relax before and during the test. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are relaxation techniques to counteract feelings of anxiety and bring the mind and body back into equilibrium.

  • Maintain a realistic viewpoint. Although successful performance on a test is a realistic goal, it is important to avoid attaching your self-worth to exam outcomes. After a test, review the information and identify areas of weakness and opportunities to improve. Develop and practice strategies that will improve test performance.

  • Remain focused. It is important to avoid becoming distracted by your surroundings or focusing on the time that has been allotted for the test. Read each question thoroughly, remain calm and confident. If needed, engage in a relaxation technique to maintain focus and reduce anxiety.

  • Rest. Preparing for a test can be a daunting task, but developing good study habits can alleviate stress that is commonly experienced the night before an exam. Use the night before an exam for a quick review and plan to get a good night's rest.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. It has been proven that a healthy diet can relieve stress. Eating fruits and vegetables before an exam can reduce stress. Incorporating foods high in protein can increase mental alertness. Avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar. These types of foods can exacerbate feelings of anxiety.

  • Expect some anxiety. Some anxiety is normal and can be used to stimulate performance. Anxiety is the body's natural reaction to stressors. However, it is important to understand the difference between normal anxiety and anxiety disorder. If feelings of anxiety begin to interrupt your life and impede your ability to successfully perform on an exam, seek assistance to help you manage anxiety and take control of your life.