Saint Louis University

Test anxiety is quite common among college students. Below is a collection of resources that may help you find relief.

Some advice will be more helpful than others. Try to stay positive, and remember, you CAN overcome test anxiety!

What causes test anxiety?

The counseling center at George Washington University sums up the causes of test anxiety well:

Usually there is some real or perceived activating agent. It may be past experiences of blanking on tests, or being unable to retrieve answers to questions. It could also be a lack of preparation for an exam, which is a real reason to be worried about your performance. In this case, errors in time management, poor study habits, failure to properly organize material and cramming the night before the exam might increase anxiety. If you have adequately prepared for a test, your anxiety may result from negative thinking and worries. You might be focusing on past performances on exams, how friends and other classmates are doing, or the negative consequences you expect if you do poorly. (View GWU source).

To reiterate, test anxiety can really just be an agitation of your information retrieval processes and current anxiety levels because of the following:

  • Negative self-talk and worry (because of past experiences and/or perception that you will perform badly).
  • Need for improved in time-management, test taking or general study skills.

What do you believe is the cause of your test anxiety?

If you believe your anxiety is the result of the negative self-talk and worry, then make sure to practice and become skilled in...

1. Relaxation Techniques.

2. Positive Self-Talk.

If you believe your anxiety is the result of current study skills, then make sure to practice and become skilled in...

1. Test taking strategies:

When preparing for a test, students are often left unaware of how to go about checking what they know or can recall. Then, when the test arrives, the mind goes completely blank!

To best prepare for a test, you want to walk in and feel CONFIDENT in what you know. Go the extra mile and test your confidence levels...

  • Create a practice exam and place yourself in a testing environment.
    • Make sure the room is silent, you are sitting in a chair at a desk, and you have a time limit.
    • Practice on ignoring everything else. 
    •  As you go through each question, rate yourself on how confident you are in your answer! Write to the side of each question how confident you are (on a scale from 1-10 or as a percentage--there is no correct way!).
    • Make sure that you are building upon your confidence levels as you study and not just guessing the correct answers!
  • Study with a peer.
    • A study partner or group can ask questions you might not have previously prepared.
    • They'll provide the feedback you might not be giving yourself when you study!
    •  It always feels different when you have to answer questions aloud versus when your answers reside in your head, but you will gain confidence as you talk through answers.

The Academic Support website offers some additional resources regarding how to prepare for both essay and objective exams.

2. Improved Time-Management:

View this short Time-Management Workshop session, which will help you reflect and identify areas of improvement for your current time-management skills.