How to overcome the test-taking anxiety

What if the person has enough knowledge but anxiety before exams still causes discomfort? Is it possible to prepare for the testing so that nervousness does not hinder showing the best result? In this article, we will consider several psychological techniques that will help you calm down.

How to stay calm before a test? For the beginning, you do not need to scold yourself for fear. Everyone is nervous before responsible events. Even adult, strong and self-confident people have this feeling before going to a new job, submitting a dissertation for consideration of scientific council or even before a wedding.

Fear makes us mobilize all our resources and show the best result which we are capable of. You have probably heard the stories about people who were frightened and developed unprecedented speed, passed through very narrow cracks, jumped several meters in height. So do not try to get rid of fear at all. Like everything that is given to us by nature, it has its purpose and can be useful.

But there is another feeling – paralyzing, weakening, because of which the tongue sticks to the larynx. Those pupils who study well and are afraid not to get the highest mark often suffer from it. It would be good to get rid of such fear of test taking. Let’s find out how to do it.

Catch the thought

What is test anxiety? What is its most striking feature? Perhaps, it’s a mismatch with the real situation. It’s just about a math examination. But you feel like it is the execution through the guillotine. In fact, we are not afraid of the exam itself, but of the meaning that we attach to success or failure.

Listen to yourself. What thoughts are accompanied by attacks of fear? ‘I’m not capable of anything, I’m a full zero in math’, ‘I’ll fail again, as always’, ‘I do not justify the expectations of my parents, they will be terribly upset’, ‘I’m the worst, totally incompetent’.

Surely you think something like this. These ideas can appear so quickly and be so habitual that you almost do not notice them. And if you indicate such thoughts, it’s very difficult to change entrenched stereotypes. Probably, you will say to yourself: ‘I really do not know math well. I am really not very gifted. Indeed, parents will be upset’. You have to work with this.

Catch these fear-generating thoughts. Even better, write them down or tell everything to the person you trust: a friend, a sister, a dad. And now try to assess above-mentioned phrases sensibly and critically. Are you really not capable of anything? Does a low mark for math exam mean that a person has no talents? Would you say about other students who failed the test that he is the worst? Will your parents agree with the fact that you absolutely do not justify their hopes? Are they really going to be terribly upset? Will their mood be worse than yours when you barely breathe because of fear?

So what?

In addition to self-deprecating thoughts, fear often causes ‘apocalyptic’ ideas: ‘This is the end’, ‘I’m lost’, ‘I will not survive this’.

Try the method which is called ‘So what?’ It’s very simple exercise: starting from a horrifying thought, ask yourself the question ‘So what?’ Do it again and again several times.

For example, a decent student who wants to enter the philological faculty feels the excitement:

  • It’s terrible! I’ll get C for mathematics.
  • So what?
  • This will be the single mark C in my certificate!
  • So what?
  • It’s very insulting. C will remain with me forever. I can’t fix it!
  • So what?
  • In general, nothing. It’s sad, but not fatal. Who will care about my grades for mathematics at philological faculty? At least, this is not the reason to worry.

But, of course, there may be more serious cases when much depends on the result of the exam. Let’s analyze an example with a young man who is afraid not to enter the coveted university:

  • I will pass this exam badly.
  • So what?
  • I will not get a cut-off mark.
  • So what?
  • I will not be accepted for studies.
  • So what?
  • Parents will be terrified. Everyone will feel sorry and laugh behind my back.
  • So what?
  • It becomes clear that I’m nothing, worse than all. I can’t get the profession I’m dreaming of. My life is spoiled.

Now it’s time to stop the ‘apocalyptic’ ideas and think sensibly: is the situation really so hopeless? What are the available alternatives? Perhaps there are other universities with needed specialty where the requirements for the principal passes are lower. Perhaps there is a college. Or you can try again next year.

At the age of 17, nothing can be lost and ruined irrevocably. There is a saying: ‘If fate closes one door before you, it always opens another one’. So it might be wiser to look for a new way than to knock on the closed door in despair.


The mood and the result of the exam can be improved if you create an image of success in your mind and believe in it. The best moment for this is the transition from sleep to wakefulness, an intermediate state when you are already awake but have not yet opened the eyes.

Enjoy the picture for a couple of minutes and try to see it in all colors: you answer confidently, feel wonderful, have a light head, straight posture, harmonious, correct speech, you like yourself and enjoy the exam.

It is important not just to see the image ‘from the side’ but also to feel the state of pleasant confidence and success. Then your brain and body will remember and reproduce all this in the real situation.

This article was compiled by Oliver Swanson, enthusiastic journalist from Toronto and constant contributor to essay writing service Pro-Papers.