Tip of the Month: How to Ease Test Anxiety
Hands sweating, nausea, and stomach full of butterflies – these are just some physical symptoms of test anxiety. With it being midterm season, it is completely normal to feel nervous. However, with test anxiety, your feelings of worry and self-doubt are elevated and this can interfere with your performance when taking an important exam or assessment.
Here are a few strategies that may help reduce your test anxiety:
- Be prepared. It’s easier said than done, but being prepared means you study early. By studying little bits over time, rather than cramming all material at the last minute, you are more likely to retain information and it will be less stressful when the exam comes closer. Being prepared also means ensuring your accommodations are in order if you are one of the ¼ students registered with the Office of Accessible Education. Apply for disability services early and deliver your accommodation letter to faculty early in the quarter.
- Study effectively. Along with studying early, it’s important to be efficient with your studying time. There are many effective study strategies that can help you best prepare for exams and better learn, understand, and retain information. These strategies are referred to as active studying strategies, which has you engage and interact with the material being learned. Some ways to practice active studying include creating a study guide, creating concept maps, and practicing active recall. Learn more here.
- Create a calming worksheet. Many people like creating a calming worksheet to help ease their stress and anxiety. Your calming worksheet can include motivational quotes, why you are likely to succeed, pictures of your supporters, and anything else that will make you more motivated and less anxious.
- Learn relaxation techniques. There are many relaxation techniques that can keep you calm before an exam or assessment. This includes different breathing exercises, relaxing your muscles, or simply stepping back and imagining a positive result on the exam or assessment. Learn more here.
- Get a good night's sleep. Research has shown that “sleep and anxiety feed one another” and can hurt academic performance. Thus, it’s important you get enough sleep so you can perform at your best ability. It’s recommended to get at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep per night. To learn more about sleep and its impacts on your physical and mental health, check out the Sleep Edition of The Flourish. You can also discover ways to improve your sleep hygiene in our Sleep Corner of each edition.
While these strategies may be helpful, you may want to consider reaching out to CAPS for support if test anxiety continues to be an obstacle. In some cases, students who are engaged in ongoing treatment for anxiety may also benefit from academic accommodations, which can be accessed through the Office Accessible Education.
*Test anxiety is not in and of itself a disability, but often a facet of other mental health disorders or chronic illnesses. Be sure to discuss your symptoms and their severity with your health care provider. Students must be engaged in treatment in order to receive a letter from CAPS for accommodations.
- Stanford Learning Lab The Stanford Learning Lab embraces the strengths and contributions of all learners and specializes in research-based practices centered on learning diversity.
- Office of Accessible Education. The OAE is the campus entity designated to work with Stanford students with disabilities. The OAE provides a wide array of support services, accommodations, and programs to remove barriers to full participation in the life of the University.
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). CAPS provides counseling, where you can explain your situation with their psychologists and get advice on how to deal with anxiety. They can also recommend you to receive accommodations, which you can then reach out to the Office of Accessible Education for the necessary accommodations.
- Time Management Resources Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning
- How to Talk to Your Professor About Your Mental Health Mental Health America