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? In 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 the scientific council, or even before a wedding.

Fear makes us mobilize all our resources and show the best result that 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 the 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? Perhaps there are other universities with needed specialties 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 a real situation.

Fun Facts About Test-Taking

We all agree that taking examination tests is no fun at all. We even wish examinations didn’t exist; nobody likes the palpitating pressure of answering test items. But take time off from this dilemma, and let’s have fun facts about test-taking.

Did you know a French philosopher invented the system of examination?

A seemingly obvious question every student wanted to be answered was who created the test-taking system. Philosopher Henry Fischel taught the system in various countries. For Henry, exams aim to understand a student’s ability and learning, leading them to learn a lot in one night. Henry Fischel’s testing philosophy was first established in China under the name of imperial examinations. The Sui dynasty approved the system and put it into effect in 605, but 1300 years later, it was abolished in 1905 by the Qing dynasty. However, Britain adopted this system in 1806 for Majesty’s official duties. 

Did you know in the UK, there are many standardized tests across the country, but Finnish students have to take one test every year?

The United Kingdom typically lets students take different sets of standardized tests at 16. There are about 20 substantial examinations every child in England has to conquer. On the other hand, Finland initiated an education reform revolutionizing the system. Finland does not have standardized tests. The only exception is the so-called National Matriculation Exam, a voluntary student test at the end of high school. All children across Finland are assessed individually according to a teacher-set grading system. Overall progress will be tracked by the Ministry of Education, which collects samples from various school areas. 

Did you know China has an examination system with 12 hours duration? 

China is the home of testing. The Gaokao/Higher Examination lasts 12 hours and is administered over two days. The National College Entrance Examination, popularly known as The Gaokao Examination, is a standardized college entrance examination every year in mainland China. Every student is required for admission to higher education institutions in the country. 

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