Overcoming Test Anxiety

That job I had in the White House wasn’t so very different from the otehr jobs but I didn’t let it worry me. Worrying never does you any good. So I’ve never worried about things much. The only thing that I ever worried about is to be sure that the job is properly done. I’ve always tried my best and to some extent have succeeded in doing the job as well as it’s been done before me.

~Harry S. Truman

33rd U.S President

Why is is that students do well in exams while others do poorly? To do well in exams, you must not only need to have some ability and know you work thoroughly, you also need to have a good “examination technique” and not be affected by excessive exam anxiety. Students who have poor exam techniques and are excessively anxious do not do well as other more exam-wise and less anxious students. They do not do as well as these other students even though they may be of the same ability and have spent as long in preparation.

Unfortunately, many students, particularly the ones who do poorly, view their exams in a counter-productive way. They see it as a situation which will be akin to a horrible battle to death, where there will be a lot of casualties falling by the wayside. Now, exams are not exactly fun but they are not as bad as that.

TRY TO LOOK UPON YOUR EXAMS IN A POSITIVE AND REALISTIC LIGHT. View them as a CHALLENGE where you have the opportunity to demonstrate to the examiner how much you know. Your exams are the major means by which  you will be able to reach your long-term goals. You have to plan how you will make this step. In the past, you have successfully overcome obstacles and taken other big strides forward. There is no reason to assume you will not be able to deal with exams in the same way.

According to studies, one of the most common reasons why students perform poorly in exams is excessive anxiety. Let’s take a look at the problem of exam anxiety from two different angles and see how you can make your body feel less anxious, less up-tight and more relaxed.

This post will examine how you can replace hurtful negative attitudes (which cause anxiety) with positive ones that will reduce it. It also contains information on how to organize your study timetable prior to the exams and how to act on your exam day.

The Usefulness of Anxiety

How would you know if you are affected by exam anxiety? Your body and your behavior will “tell” you. Your level of anxiety may be minor and therefore not negatively affect you, or it may be excessive leading to poor concentration and problem solving. Slight tension in the forehead and slight uneasiness in the stomach muscles constitute minor anxiety. This cane be helpful and will help you spend more time in studying. On the other hand, when the thoughts of exams leads to a pounding headache, “butterflies” in the stomach and an overall uptight feeling, you are experiencing excessive anxiety. This extremely uncomfortable bodily reaction is accompanied by negative self-talk about the forthcoming exam. Anxiety experienced at this extreme level is damaging because it upsets your body, distracts you from studying,and this prevents you from reaching your goals. There are two ways of dealing with excessive anxiety and reducing it to a tolerable level.

Anxiety, like all emotions, varies in intensity. It can vary from “no anxiety” to “extreme anxiety”. Some anxiety can be positive. It is a motivator that gives you a kick in the pants to study and to perform. But excessive anxiety stops you from performing to the best of your ability.

Anxiety may occur before or during exam. It is often accompanied by mental blanking.

Mental blanking occurs when your mind goes black; you know a piece of information yet you are unable to recall it.

There are two major ways that could help you reduce anxiety. The first one involves using positive self talk while the other involves decreasing your physical discomfort by relaxation techniques. It makes sense to learn and practice both these methods.


Excessive exam anxiety drains your mental attention and physical energy, and diverts them into non-goal, non-productive behaviors and emotions. It is often brought on by negative predictions about what is likely to occur in the future. In most cases, there is no sound basis for these negative predictions about what is likely to occur in the future. They are only your gloomy picture of the worst that may happen. If you change your gloomy picture, you can reduce your anxiety.

The attitude that cause exam anxiety are:

(1) “I must succeed at everything I do in school. If I don;t, it would be awful. I could not stand it if I failed.”

(2) If I don’t succeed in my exams, I’m hopeless, a total failure.”

(3) “If I don’t do well (or fail) others may disapprove of me. If others disapprove of me, I am nothing.”

(4) It would be terrible if I became anxious about an exam. I couldn’t stand being anxious before I take an exam.”


I am not saying that you should just let yourself fail on an exam – that is not what I meant. what I am trying to instill is that, IF IN CASE, you failed in an exam, IT IS NOT YET THE END OF THE WORLD!

Remember, there are more worst cases/situations other than failing in an exam. Besides, why would you even let yourself fail if you know that you have the will to do it the other way? 🙂


There are two methods for relaxation – Deep Breathing and Tensing and Releasing Muscles.

  1. Deep Breathing

Sit in a chair with your hands in your lap or on your thighs, your shoulders relaxed, and your legs uncrossed. Close your eyes. Exhale, then take a deep S-L-O-W breath and count to 5 as you inhale. Hold it for a count of 2. While you slowly exhale, think or say the word R-E-L-A-X. Do this 3 or 4 times in succession.

Try it now!

It felt good didn’t it? Now, whenever you feel your anxiety and bodily tension increasing, practice your deep breathing. It can be carried out in class and home. If you are practicing it at school, you can do so with your eyes open.

                 2. Tensing and Releasing Muscles

This method involves identifying the muscle groups that seem to become more tense when you are anxious. The major muscle groups are as follows: forehead, eys, jaw, neck, right and left arm, right and left leg, back, chest, and stomach. Practice relaxing them using this method:

Start by tightening the muscles and hold them for a few seconds then release the tension one muscle group at a time. Breathe in, tense while you hold your breath, release your muscles as you exhale. after you have exhaled, concentrate on the pleasant sensation in the region that was previously tense. With each breath you take, feel the relaxation spreading. Enjoy the sensation for a moment or two and then move on to the next muscle group. After you have relaxed all your muscle groups, enjoy the sensation of total body relaxation for a few moments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s