With final exams looming right around the corner, many students are experiencing test anxiety or stress to some degree. While some nervousness before a test is normal and can enhance focus, test anxiety can escalate to the point that it begins to interfere with your daily activities. Thankfully, there are several strategies to help you overcome test anxiety.

When I was in college, I remember getting increased anxiety before exams. I would stay up all night studying in the library with friends, consuming caffeinated beverages. Little did I know that “cramming” is actually a rather ineffective way to prepare for a test and was likely contributing to my overall anxiety and stress. Sigh. Luckily, I’m here to tell the story and save you, key learners from making my same mistake.

So what can you do to lessen the anxiety and stress around test-taking? Here are some strategies backed by science that can help:

  • Practice relaxation techniques and visualization. To calm your nervous system before a test, try deep breathing exercises or paired muscle relaxation. For paired muscle relaxation, practice contracting and relaxing muscles one at a time. Next, try visualizing yourself completing the test and being successful. 
  • Eat a balanced meal and hydrate. On the day of the test, be sure to get a balanced meat in to give your brain the fuel it needs to function well. Also, drink plenty of water and limit caffeine intake which can increase feelings of nervousness.
  • Get some sleep and exercise, too. Be sure to get enough sleep the night before for optimal performance. Intense aerobic exercise has been proven to reduce stress and tension so try squeezing in a workout the morning of the test if you can.
  • Study in advance and in a similar spot. Be sure to study in small increments over time rather than cramming for the test all at once. Also, try and study in the same or similar place that you’ll be taking the test in so that your brain can more readily recall the information at test-taking time.
  • Self-advocate if necessary for your learning difference. If you have a specific learning difference such as ADHD or dyslexia and have test-taking accommodations, be sure to advocate for your needs ahead of time by contacting the student support services office and your professors. Many students with ADHD or other learning differences will have specific accommodations such as extended time or the ability to take the test in a less distracting environment. 

There’s no getting around the fact that final exam week is a stressful time. Acknowledge your feelings and make time for self-care when you can. Try out one of these strategies to trade in stress for success! We are rooting for you here at KLR!

In partnership,

Lindsay S. Harrington