10 tips on how to overcome test anxiety

written by: Sabine Klug, 07.01.2021

Almost all students are familiar with the pre-exam period emotions. They can be overwhelming and include everything from annoyance to anxiety. While it is completely okay to feel a little nervousness, some people suffer from real test anxiety which can be paralyzing. Here are 10 tips and last-minute tricks to help you deal with your test anxiety!

What is test anxiety?

For most people test anxiety starts long before the actual examination. There are several different symptoms, including feeling discomfort, restlessness and sometimes even insomnia! There can also be psychological symptoms who express themselves through self-doubt, lack of concentration, nervousness or constantly thinking about the worst-case scenario. What’s happening to a lot of affected students is that on the actual day of the exam, their mind just goes blank. And what now? Most important thing: try to keep calm!

That isn’t always the easiest thing to do but if you can, try to teach your brain positive thinking. Do not imagine the worst but the best case scenario! Fear is often difficult to cope with, but it also sharpens your senses, which is inherently a good thing – so why not use it?

But what exactly is test anxiety? Per definition it is the fear of assessment of one’s knowledge and performance.

Who is affected? A lot of studies assume that nearly 25% of students suffer from text anxiety. This can have different reasons. Some have extremely high expectations for themselves, others have had bad previous experiences, constant nervousness, an unhealthy tendency to perfectionism or the exact opposite – laziness. No matter what your particular triggers are, we are going to help you address the problem!

Here are 10 tips that may help to reduce your test anxiety:

1. Be prepared

This may seem obvious but if you start preparing on time, which doesn’t mean starting studying two days before the exam, but taking enough time to revise. Get organized and come up with a study plan – this way you can release some of the heavy pressure. If you are properly prepared, you waste less energy thinking about failure!

2. Get to know the situation that makes you anxious

Most exams aren’t as bad as students tend to imagine! In most cases the lecturer explains the examination type beforehand. Some teachers also give you an example test – so you can get familiar with the way the questions will be asked.

3. Work on your self-confidence

If you do not believe in yourself, who else will? Boosting your confidence is nothing that can be done in a day – we know. But there are simply steps you can start doing now: be more egoistic, maybe try to look in the mirror and tell yourself how great you are! If you believe you can do it, you probably can! And until then, fake it, till you make it!

4. Teach someone

If you think you understood everything and are ready for the exam, grab a friend and explain the subject to him or her once again. If you are able to teach someone else, you’ll know you’ve got it – and this will give you a lot of security.

5. Outsmart yourself

Sometimes we have to fight our inner demons that tell us we should stay in bed and watch one more episode of the series we actually already know by heart. Routines help to get out of a rut and make studying a task you don’t even have to think about! Find yourself a study buddy and create a plan with fixed dates where you meet and study together! It’s harder to quit on a friend than to quit when your only by yourself – one point for you, none for your inner demon!

6. Establish a consistent study routine

As mentioned before, it is important to have a plan. What else is really important is to create a plan that not only includes your study time but also considers when you are most receptive, when you need breaks and snacks! Do not study harder, study smarter!

7. Lose the cheat sheet

There is nothing wrong with making notes or writing down important facts to revise but don’t write a cheat sheet for your actual exam! Some people say they might feel safer by having one in their pocket, but if you already suffer from test stress you do not need another factor raising your heartbeat! Follow our previous tips, prepare yourself, focus, try to keep calm and you will do great!

8. Try these relaxation techniques

You are already in the middle of the exam or is it coming up real soon and you feel the fear sneaking up on you? Now is the time to distract yourself and focus on being calm. Try these exercises:

  • One hand goes to your neck, the other one to your forehead – it may look a little funny but this will give your head warmth and energy!
  • Are you familiar with the Shen- Men – Point which is located on your ear? The so-called “Gate-to-the-Mind” Point is located directly above the auricle and is designed to increase attention, reduce stress and release anxiety. To activate the pressure point, place your index finger on the back of your ear and lightly pressure the point with your thumb. Massage the point with a circular motion for about one minute.
  • Try this breathing technique to overcome panic. Take a deep breath and slowly release the air again. After breathing out, hold your breath for six to ten seconds. Repeat this exercise for as long as you want. You will feel that with every breath you’ll release some tension.

9. If nothing helps…

Your preparation didn’t help. You blackout; exam tasks seem suddenly unsolvable. Try not to freak out! Try to catch a deep breath and remind yourself of some of our emergency relaxation techniques! Don’t stick with questions you can’t seem to find an answer to, just go on to the next one and come back later. You know you studied for this! Same goes for oral exams, tackle the issue right on. No auditor will interpret it negatively if you openly communicate that you have a blackout. Take your time, collect yourself and try focusing again. You got this!

10. Last minute tips against panicking

  • Wear your favorite clothes: An outfit that makes you feel good and powerful will set the right tone.
  • Avoid time-related stress: Leave early and plan a few more minutes for your ride in case you’re stuck in traffic – you will arrive relaxed.
  • Avoid pessimists: Don’t make place for negative thinkers and panic spreaders. Before an exam, take a step back, listen to music or do some relaxation exercises. This way other people can’t affect you with their negative mindsets or horror predictions.
  • Even after the exam you should stay away from energy vampires. Treat yourself to some mental relaxation and don’t involve yourself in “What were your results on task three?” conversations.
  • And to be honest: what happens in the worst case? If you fail, there will certainly be an option of retaking the exam.

We will keep our fingers crossed for you and wish you all the best for your exams!


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