News Archive

Test Anxiety

Sabra JacobsTest Anxiety refers to the host of negative physical and emotion symptoms that some students feel before and while taking a test. These symptoms may include insomnia, feeling nauseous, headaches, depression, excessive sweating, panic attacks, and physical cramping. They can be experienced on a continuum from non-existent to mild to severe to debilitating. In any event, if you suffer significant test anxiety symptoms, then it is time to do something about them.

Bin Kassim, Hanafi, and Hancock (2008) have found that students who display high test anxiety tend to score low on exams. Among the reasons for this phenomenon is that some students spend too much time worrying about how they are doing and if other students are having as much trouble as they are on the test. Other students may have a very difficult time focusing their efforts on the test at hand. Still others may experience a total mental block and have a difficult time recalling the information they studied for the test. In any event, the time to complete the test quickly slips by them and many of these students do poorly.

In an effort to break this cycle, lets look at some ways to properly prepare for a test. Physically speaking, it is very important that you maintain your regular sleeping, eating, and exercise routines prior to the taking the test. This will assure that you have not stayed up all night cramming, but, instead, are well-rested, have consumed enough fuel to keep you going through your testing period, and engaged in physical activity to relieve your nervous energy. Emotionally speaking, it is very important to know the material for your test, practice relaxing, and use positive self-talk. By knowing the material for the test, you will have the confidence necessary to do your best on it. By learning relaxation techniques, you can put these into use if you begin to feel anxious or experience muscle cramps while taking the test. And, by employing positive self-talk, you will feel more at ease in the testing situation and more confident in your test-taking abilities. (Garnder amp; Jewler, 2006).

Here are a few things that you can do to enhance your studying skills:

1. Find out what type of test questions will be on the testessay, multiple choice, true false, matching, etc..

For essay exams, be sure to budget your time so that you will not leave any questions unanswered; write focused and organized answers, being careful to stick to the immediate test question topic; and know the key terms in essay questions so that your essay responses will be more accurate and precise. Some of these key terms include: analyze, compare, contrast, define, describe, discuss, evaluate, explain, interpret, justify, outline, prove, review, summarize, and trace.

For multiple choice exams, be sure to take advantage of the cues that multiple choice questions provide. For example, absolute words such as always, never, and only tend to be incorrect. Also, be on the look-out for terms such as not, except, and but within the test questions so that you will not carelessly pick the wrong answer.

For true/false exams, be sure that every aspect of the question is true before you mark true. Frequently, questions that contain words like always, never and only are usually false whereas words like often, frequently, sometimes are usually true. Always be sure to read through the entire test to see if information contained in one question can help you answer another question.

For matching exams, be sure to review all of the terms and descriptions and then match the easiest ones first. Each time you have answered a question, be sure to cross out the term and its description to prevent you from using it again later on. Then, as you match the harder terms, you will have fewer descriptions to choose from which will increase the probability that you will pick the correct description.

2. Find a Study Buddy from class or at home who will help you to learn the material for the test and quiz you beforehand to be sure that you are on the right track.

3. Overlearn the material to make sure that you will retain it for a long time even after the test.

4. Use mnemonics to creatively remember sets of terms or concepts that you may have to recall for the test.

5. Try to associate the test material with ideas or experiences that you already know. That way, when you recall familiar things, you will also remember the new content for your test.

6. Use flash cards to help learn terms and concepts and be sure to review them frequently.

7. Create recall sheets and mind maps to help you review the most important concepts for the test.

8. Make use of the tutoring center on your campus for chapter and test material you do not understand.

While taking the test, there are a few things that you can do to ensure a more successful and less stressful experience. First of all, be sure to write your name on the test so that you will get credit for your knowledge on the exam. Next, take a deep breath to relax and slowly let it out while you are reviewing the test to see what types of questions are on it and what areas of information you will need to access to complete the test. Then, start with the easiest questions first. Be sure to carefully read each question so that you will not miss an easy item through your own carelessness. If you feel your anxiety rising, then simply stop what you are doing and take a few more deep breaths and re-focus your efforts on the question at hand. As you come to questions that you do not know the answer to, move on to other questions because sometimes you may encounter hints about the correct answer to the question(s) that you were previously wondering about. Just make sure that you are keeping accurate account on your Scantron (if you are using one) so that you are marking your answers for the correct corresponding question. Then, once you have gone through the test once, go over the test questions that you did not answer yet. This time, you will undoubtedly have a better feel for the correct answer. Sometimes, however, you may be totally confused on a question. When that happens, then you can use the process of elimination to mark out obviously irrelevant answers. This will increase your chances of selecting the correct answer. Finally, once you have answered each question, it is time for you to carefully review all of your answers. Too often, students with test anxiety want to run out of the testing room as soon as they have completed their tests. But sometimes they act too hasty and end up doing worse on the test because they did not take the time to review their answers.

Here is an activity to further assist you with reducing your test anxiety. Just be sure to copy and paste the various URLs to your browser and enjoy your virtual field trip!

Virtual Field Trip

Ready to go on a virtual field trip? One major concern for many students is Test or Exam Anxiety. Let's take a trip to discover some causes and cures. Click on any of the sites below. You will find many places to visit. The trip is free. It's your passport to knowledge about test anxiety.

Ah-Chem's Site Review Test Anxiety

University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignCounseling Center

Study Guides and Strategies/Joe Landsberger

University of Buffalo

University of Western Ontario

Kishwaukee College


The purpose of your trip is to find the answers to the questions below. You may have to go several places. In addition to answering the questions, be sure to tell where you were when you found the answers (include the title and URL of your source).

1. Name several causes of test anxiety

2. What are some of the effects of test anxiety?

3. List at least 5 possible ways to reduce test anxiety.

Now quickly visit 5 sites about Test Anxiety you have not visited.

List the site by name of sponsor or college.






Choose the one that looked the most useful to you and list 5 things you discovered on that site.

Name and URL of site _________________________________







Suggested References :

Bin Kassim, Hanafi, amp; Hancock (2008). Test anxiety and its consequences on academic performance among university students. Advances in Psychology Research, 53, 7595.

Gardner amp; Jewler (2001). Your College Experience: Strategies for Success. (Fourth edition). Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.

Gardner amp; Jewler (2006). Your College Experience: Strategies for Success. (Sixth edition). Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.

Hindle (1998). Reducing Stress. DK Publishing: New York.

Hopper (2004). Practicing College Learning Strategies. (Third edition). Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

Weiten, Dunn, amp; Hammer (2012). Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century. Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.

Questions or Comments? Please contact: Sabra Jacobs, Professor of Psychology, Big Sandy Community and Technical College, 1 Bert T. Combs Drive, Prestonsburg, KY 41653; email ; call (606) 889-4778; or stop by my office Pike Building, room 209 f on the Prestonsburg Campus.