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Top tips for managing test anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety. It signals that something important is at stake and motivates us to make necessary changes to manage that task. We all experience a certain amount of anxiety or nervousness before a test. Try these strategies to keep anxiety at a manageable level.

1. Take care of yourself2. Start studying early3. Use effective study strategies4. Control what you can5. Use relaxation techniques

Take care of yourself

Overcoming anxiety is a process. It’s important to take care of yourself on a day-to-day basis—not just when you have a test coming up. Build in strategies for regular stress management and self-care:

  • eat well and drink plenty of water, including on the day of the exam.
  • exercise as a regular part of your routine.
  • get plenty of sleep on a regular basis. Sleep is directly related to your ability to think clearly, remember what you’ve learned, and deal with your anxiety.

Start studying early

Give yourself time to study well. Use SASS’s template to make a study schedule. Break down course content and structure your 3-hour study blocks. Want to know what a good study schedule looks like? Here is a sample plan (15 study hours over 5 days).

Use effective study strategies

Organize the information meaningfully (e.g., use the course learning objectives; make summary sheets and mind maps). Elaborate on the material (e.g., ask how and why; look for connections and relationships between concepts; apply to new contexts). In math, spend 20% of your time reviewing concepts and 80% of your time working on problems

But the BEST thing you can do? Self-test every time you sit down to study. Self-testing helps you learn better, identifies what you don’t know as well, improves memory through active recall, and lets you practice test anxiety management.

Control what you can

Control what you can by making sure you’re clear about the course expectations, how to prepare, what is allowed and what isn’t. Get comfortable with the online test environment. There is a lot of information available, including FAQs on remote proctoring and resources for how to work with remote proctoring tools.

Use relaxation techniques

Have some things you do to regain your focus and tolerate the discomfort brought on by anxiety.

  • Mindset shifts: visualizing success, noticing your own thinking and using encouraging words with yourself, and establishing good practices early.
  • Grounding exercises: five-finger breathing, squeezing lemons, chair-body scanning, and rhythmic breathing.

Student Wellness Services have also posted strategies for exam anxiety management, to help students maintain their physical, mental and social well-being as they study.

For more information to help you become aware of, accept, and take action against test anxiety, check out this resource, co-created by Student Wellness Services and Student Academic Success Services.