Is it possible to get over test anxiety?

Answer From Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.

Several strategies can reduce test anxiety and help you do better on test day.

A little nervousness before a test is typical and can help sharpen your mind and focus your attention. But with test anxiety, feelings of worry and self-doubt can interfere with how well you do on tests and make you miserable. Test anxiety can affect anyone, whether you're a grade school or high school student, a college student, or an employee who has to take tests to move ahead in a career or get certified.

Here are some actions you can take that may help lower your test anxiety:

  • Learn how to study efficiently. Your school may offer study-skills classes or other resources that can help you learn study methods and test-taking tips. You'll feel more relaxed if you routinely study and practice the material that will be on a test.
  • Study early and in similar places. It's much better to study a little bit over time than to cram in your studying all at once. Also, spend your time studying in the same place that you'll take your test — or someplace like it — to help you recall the information you need at test time. Studying in a variety of places can help, too.
  • Set up a consistent pretest routine. Learn what works for you, and follow the same steps each time you get ready to take a test. This will ease your stress level and help ensure that you're well prepared.
  • Talk with your teacher. Make sure you understand what's going to be on each test and know how to best prepare. Also, let your teacher know that you feel anxious when you take tests. Your teacher may have suggestions to help you do well.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. To help you stay calm and confident right before and during the test, do relaxation techniques. These include deep breathing, tensing then relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome. Practice these methods daily so they feel like a habit when test day comes.
  • Get some exercise. Regular aerobic exercise and exercising while studying and on exam day can release tension.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is directly related to getting good grades in school. Preteens and teenagers especially need to get regular, solid sleep. But adults need a good night's sleep, too, to do their best work.
  • Don't ignore other problems. Test anxiety may get better by getting help for any condition that interferes with the ability to learn, focus or concentrate — for example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia or a learning disability. In many cases, a student diagnosed with these conditions is entitled to certain types of help with test taking, such as extra time to complete a test, testing in a less distracting room or having questions read aloud.
  • See a professional counselor, if needed. Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, with a psychologist or other mental health professional can help you work through feelings, thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen anxiety. They can also teach you study and test-taking skills and how to stay organized to help you do your best. Ask if your school has counseling services or ask if your employer offers counseling through an employee assistance program.


Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.

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May 14, 2024 See more Expert Answers