For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Test Anxiety

Most students experience some level of nervousness before or during an exam. Some anxiety can be very helpful since this can motivate us to do our best on exams. Feeling anxious also tells us that we want to do well and that we care about our performance on tests. Too much anxiety, however, can become a problem if it interferes with our ability to do our best.

What Causes Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety can be caused by many different factors, each of which can impact a person in a unique way:

Inadequate Preparation:

  • Cramming the night before the test
  • Managing study time poorly
  • Failing to organize the study material
  • Having poor study habits

Worrying About:

  • Past performance on tests
  • How other students are doing
  • The negative consequences of failure

Negative Thinking:

  • Telling yourself you are going to fail, are dumb, or are not as good as your classmates
  • Giving up because you believe these things

What Does it Feel Like?

The symptoms of text anxiety may be different for different people. However, some common signs include:


  • Having difficulty reading and understanding the questions on the exam
  • Having difficulty organizing your thoughts
  • Having difficulty retrieving key words and concepts when answering questions
  • Doing poorly on an exam when you know the material

Mental Blocking:

  • “Going blank” on questions
  • Remembering the correct answers as soon as the test is over

Physical Symptoms:

  • Increased heart and breathing rates
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle tension

How Can I Reduce Test Anxiety?

Practice Good Time Management:

  • Learn to pace yourself when studying, and try to avoid laziness, procrastination, and day dreaming
  • Build confidence by studying throughout the semester and avoid cramming the night before the exam!

Develop Better Study Habits:

  • Study the material well enough so that you can recall it even if you are under stress
  • Learn to concentrate on the material you are studying by:
    • Generating questions from your textbooks and lecture notes
    • Focusing on key words, concepts and examples from your books and notes
    • Making charts and outlines which organize the information

Controlling Your Body:

  • Use relaxation techniques, such as taking deep breaths to relax your body and reduce your stress
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough rest, eating properly, and exercising

The Power of Positive Thinking:

  • Remember: “I can do this!” and “I have studied and I know the material!”
  • Make note cards with positive phrases that you can read when you find yourself thinking negatively

Visit the Counseling Center:

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.