Tips for Managing Test Anxiety

Spring is the time when we shed our heavy winter clothes, practice soccer and baseball and enjoy the return of the color green. But it is also the time when many students take big tests. High stake tests. The kind of tests that stress out teachers and students.

Taking tests is a normal part of school. But for some kids, taking a test can feel a lot like a case of the flu. Stomach aches, foggy headedness, distraction and negative thinking can make taking a test more like a nightmare. Everyone feels nervous when they try something new or are under stress to do well. But when nerves get in the way of doing one’s best, it can be a symptom of test anxiety.

What can you do to make sure that test anxiety doesn’t keep you from doing your best?

  1. Eat a good breakfast. It’s not just commercials with swimming pieces of cereal reminding us to eat a good breakfast.  Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast.
  2. Get a good night’s rest.
  3.  Lay out your clothes the night before and pack your backpack if you don’t already do that at night. Having things ready to start the morning can make the day start off right and keep you from running late and starting off in a nervous rush.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing.
  5. Find out what the test situation is like. Review practice questions. Ask your teacher if there are any special test scenarios. Do you write on the test form or an answer sheet? Should you guess an answer if you aren’t sure? How much time will you have? Often schools will have practice tests so that all the kinks and nerves can be worked out ahead of time. But if you school doesn’t do this, ask lots of questions. Being prepared can help take the stress out of many situations.
  6. Journal about your concerns before the test. A recent study at the University of Chicago showed that ten minutes of journaling prior to a test boosted scores. If you aren’t able to journal the day of the test, take a few minutes the night before to write down your concerns.
  7. Remember that your test score is not a measure of your success as a person. Keep your thoughts positive. Negative thinking is not only a waste of time, it can decrease your ability to remember the information you know. If you feel yourself sliding into a pool of negative thoughts, think about something you are good at or the feeling you had someone said an encouraging word. Taking a few seconds to refocus your thoughts can get your brain back in gear.

Tests are only one way to measure how much you have learned. But they are also a part of school from kindergarten to college and beyond. Controlling test anxiety is a skill that can be learned. Practice these tips to take control of test situations and show the world what you know. You can do it!

Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt @