8 Tips For Overcoming Test Anxiety

Feeling nervous about your next exam? You’re not alone! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), roughly 18 percent of adults are affected by anxiety.

While it’s common to feel nervous, there are a few things you can do to prevent a case of sweaty palms during your next test.

1. Create a study plan and stick to it

“The best way to understand how much you need to study is to take a practice exam,” says Elizabeth Barry, Director of Marketing at Peterson’s. “Your test results will, in part, dictate how much time you need to dedicate to preparation. Are you pleased with your result? How far off are you from your goal? For major standardized tests Peterson’s recommends at least six weeks, although if you’re looking for a large score increase you should plan for additional study time.”

Peterson’s test prep will help create a personalized study plan just for you, featuring flashcards, mini-quizzes, and practice tests. Just as Barry notes – start reviewing the material well in advance. Working at your own pace will ease your mind and help you earn your best score.

2. Face your fears

Prioritize studying the material that’s hardest for you. It’s easy to focus on the content you’re comfortable with, but questions from your weak areas are likely to make you nervous during the test. Just like in sports, the best defense is a good offense. 

3. Avoid last-minute cramming

Procrastinating may feel good in the moment, but it eventually catches up to you in a negative way. Studying in a high pressure, stressful situation doesn’t allow your brain enough time to process the information you’re trying to recall for the exam. 

“There is no point in trying to learn new concepts the night before the test. The most important ‘last-minute’ prep is to be logistically prepared. Set out all of your needed test materials (calculator, pencils, ID, etc.) the night before so you’ll be organized and ready to go in the morning.”  

4. Get there early

Map out your route to the test center in advance. Leave plenty of time for traffic and weather delays. The last thing you need is a traffic jam to make you late and kick your nerves into high gear. Don’t forget to factor in time to find parking once you arrive.

5. Pace yourself

Before you begin the test, take a quick look at each section to get a sense of the questions. Pay attention to the point values of each question and budget your time appropriately. 

6. Write notes in the test booklet

“Many standardized tests allow you to use scratch paper or write in the test booklet. There are no rules that say you can’t write down notes AFTER the test begins. If you have trouble remembering formulas or equations, take a minute or two right after the test begins to perform a mind dump and write down all equations you might need. Now, you have a quick visual reference of all your needed formulas and can begin work on the test questions.” 

7. Breathe

When your heart starts pounding and negative thoughts start creeping, take a deep breath. Aside from clearing your head, deep breathing will lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and improve your ability to concentrate.

8. Know when to seek help

Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your school counselor or physician for extra support. If you have a legitimate learning disability, like dyslexia or ADHD, you could be entitled to extra assistance during exams.  

Taking important tests can be stressful, but coming prepared will help calm your nerves. If you have questions about how Peterson’s can help, click the chat icon in the lower right corner of the page. And finally, don’t forget to schedule some time for relaxation after the test is over. You’ve earned it!