How To Deal With Test Anxiety

ACT,  GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and SAT are acronyms that induce strong emotions from students who are applying to college or graduate school. Ditto for your average Algebra or US History exam. Testing is a stressful process for many students. I’m sure some of you are feeling your palms start to sweat by just reading this.
There is a good reason for this–testing is generally associated with an important outcome. College admissions decisions, a grade in school, or perhaps a scholarship. However, there are ways to manage this anxiety so that you can perform at your best. Keep on reading to learn about some strategies to manage your test anxiety.
[  RELATED READING:  Top Tips to Make the Most of High School  ]

About The Author
Will is a veteran of the college admissions process who has read thousands of applications and successfully counseled hundreds of students through the admissions process. Story2 teaches students applying to college how to write powerful personal statements, supplemental essays, and scholarship essays. Previously, Will was the Associate Director of College Counseling at an independent school in Connecticut and a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College. Will is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Pennsylvania.


The old scout motto “Be Prepared” is applicable here. You will feel better about the exam or test if you are prepared for it. I can’t think of a better way to get rid of the jitters than the knowledge that you have put in the work and know what to expect. For standardized tests, the good news is that you will be able to access actual tests that you can take and prep with. While these tests are from previous testing dates, they will give you a sense of the content and cadence of the test. I always recommend that students use these practice tests under “real testing conditions”. Sit in a quiet room and time yourself so that you will understand what to expect.


Research shows that sleep is an essential part of achieving peak cognitive performance. This is why it is imperative that you get a good night’s sleep the night before any test or exam. There is nothing worse than feeling tired or sluggish while trying to work your way through a demanding activity that requires focus. This means that you should not be prepping the night before.
Important Note: It is a myth that an “all nighter” is a productive way to retain information. Put together a preparation schedule weeks ahead of time so that you can avoid a late A.M. cramming session.


This advice applies whether you are taking the SAT at your local testing center or your Chemistry midterm. Show up to the test early so that you can get a seat and get settled. There is nothing worse than rushing into your exam as it is about to start. So give yourself enough time to get to class, park, or account for any other potential delays.


Ultimately, a single test is not going to determine your future. Students who get perfect SATs and ACTs will still get rejected from college and if you flunked your first AP Chemistry test, it will not doom your entire semester. Tests represent a single data point and for better or worse are not going to impact you in a permanent way. There will always be other tests and other opportunities to show what you know.
Testing anxiety is a very real issue for all students. We hope that these tips will help you manage your inner testing anxiety and allow you to perform at your absolute best during your next test or exam!

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