What is test anxiety?
It is being so afraid or worried about a test that your performance suffers. It can be
“anticipatory” and occur before the test, or “situational” and occur during the test. It can
be caused by previous bad experiences with tests, fear of failure, low expectations,
comparing yourself to others, fears about the future (financial aid suspension, program
failure) and poor study habits. If you do not properly prepare for a test, the anxiety you
feel may be warranted. You might want to consider being more organized, practicing
time management and avoiding procrastination.
How does test anxiety affect you?
Test anxiety can have physiological symptoms including: rapid heartbeat, stomach upset,
headaches, sweaty palms, mental blocks, depression and low self-confidence. It can also
result in difficulty reading test questions, organizing your thoughts, concentrating, and
remembering answers and concepts.
Things to do the days and weeks before the test
Properly prepare for your exam by completing assignments, breaking up study time into
smaller sessions, learning test-taking strategies for different types of tests, visualizing
yourself successfully completing the test and practicing stress management techniques
before anxiety becomes overwhelming.
Things to do right before the test
Be sure that you don’t try to take the test on an empty stomach, arrive early, sit in a
comfortable seat, avoid others who are stressed about the test, read the directions twice,
organize your time, scan the questions and answer the ones you know first, as time
allows, go back to the questions you did not answer. Don’t worry about others who
finish the test before you.
If you feel anxiety while studying, right before the test or during the test try the
following strategies:
1. Use deep breathing – Inhale through the nose to a slow count of five, hold this breath for
a slow count of five and then exhale through your mouth for a slow count of five. Repeat
three to five times.
2. Tense and relax different muscle groups. Pay attention to the place(s) in your body that
are tense. Focus on one area at a time and tense the muscles and relax. Repeat until all
areas in the body are more relaxed.
3. Guided imagery – pick a scene you find peaceful. What do you see, hear and feel there?
Keep this image in your mind for a few minutes. Begin studying or taking the test.
4. Use positive thoughts and self-talk that increase self-confidence – Replace negative
thoughts like, “I am going to fail this test” with “I am prepared for this test”, “I am going
to relax and think positively. I am going to do my best”, “I can write this essay if I break
it into smaller steps”, or “This is one test and it doesn’t reflect my actual intelligence”.
5. Take a break – get up and stretch or get a drink of water to help clear your mind.
6. Chew gum or eat peppermints.
7. Make sure you are studying the correct amount of hours per week, 2 hours for every
credit hour.
Resources for test anxiety:
Individual counseling/coaching is available.
Sinclair Talks workshops are offered several times a quarter regarding test anxiety, study skills,
stress management, test taking tips, procrastination, etc.
Consider joining a study group – ask your instructor for tips on forming one.
Academic Resource Center: 937-512-3495 – brush up on skills in Math, English and/or
Reading for testing or retesting.
Counseling Services: 937-512-3032 - individual counseling and Sinclair Talks workshops
Physical Education Center- 937-512-2860 - open hours and PED classes available.
The Tutoring and Learning Center – 937-512-4506 – free, drop-in tutoring in English
grammar and DEV writing, text marking, note taking and DEV math.
Tutorial services and Labs – 937-512-2792 – free educational assistance for students who are
enrolled for academic credit at Sinclair.
Counseling Services
10-424, 512-3032