Become a Better Test-Taker

I knew the answer but couldn't think of it during the test!

I knew I couldn't do well and, big surprise, I didn't!

I get so flustered I can't think!

Do any of these sound familiar? They are common symptoms of test anxiety. Here are a few tips to help you overcome that anxiety and show your professor what you know.

Before the Test

  1. Be prepared. Spend the time to study and understand the material thoroughly before the day of the test.
  2. Take breaks. Take breaks while you’re studying. You will learn and remember more for a longer period of time.
  3. Sleep. You need a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Don’t spend the night cramming – even short-term memory doesn’t work well under those conditions.
  4. Eat healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended to reduce stress. Avoid foods which contribute to stress: sugar, processed foods, caffeine, fried foods, chocolate, chips, food with heavy spices, and carbonated soft drinks.
  5. Arrive early. Schedule your activities around the test and leave plenty of time to arrive early and relax before the test starts.
  6. Avoid those who increase your anxiety. Even your best friend can unknowingly increase your anxiety. If that’s the case, arrange to see them after the test is done not before.
  7. Approach the test with confidence. View the test as an opportunity to show how much you’ve studied and your grade as a reward for that hard work.

During the Test

  1. Look over the entire test first. What kind of exam is it – essay or short answer or multiple choice? Decide how much time you have for each section and start with those sections that you know the best.
  2. Hide. Study in an out-of-the-way place. As tempted as you are to study with your friends, your best bet is to find a place of your own where you can think. Stay away from those people wanting to borrow your notes.
  3. Change position. Get up and get a drink if allowed. Eat a snack (healthy-please).
  4. Breathe deeply. Fill your lungs to the max and then breath out – all the way out. Visualize your anxiety leaving with your breath.
  5. If you go blank, go on. Don’t agonize over a single question. If you’re not sure, go to the next question and come back to this one at the end.
  6. Take extra time. If you finish early, take the time to go back over your test and check your answers. Better to find and correct your mistakes than letting your instructor find them.
  7. Essay Exam. Follow these simple steps to improve your answer: Read the question and identify the key word(s); Construct a short outline of your answer; Start with a summary statement; and take the time to show what you know.
  8. Multiple Choice Exams. Follow these simple steps to help select the best answer: Read the question carefully; Read all of the options carefully; Watch for those qualifying words: All – Most – Always – Only; Eliminate all of the options you can; and Rely on your first impression.