Test Anxiety


You Can P.A.S.S.

Test anxiety is a problem frequently experienced by college students. Almost every student who takes a test feels some anxiety, but for some, the feeling is so intense that it affects their performance - with serious results. Test anxiety can be managed, if you understand what causes it. To help you gain control of your test anxiety, use the P.A.S.S. method described below

(P)reparation for Tests

Test anxiety is caused in large part by inadequate or ineffective exam preparation. If you do not use effective study strategies, you will not have reviewed and understood the course information sufficiently to perform well on the test. Consider taking USU 1730, Strategies for Academic Success or come to the Academic Resource Center for additional information and assistance to improve your study skills. Additional actions you can take to prepare effectively for tests include:

(A)ssess Sources of Anxiety

Part of the problem with test anxiety is a vicious cycle of fear-avoidance-more fear. It is possible that at one time in your prior school experiences you performed poorly on a test. As a result, you became fearful of tests because they meant negative things like failure, ridicule, scolding, etc. To deal with your fear, you avoided tests, resulting in poor preparation, poor performance, and increased fear about tests (“I never do well on tests!”). Because of a few unfortunate experiences, you have built your anxiety to a level that almost ensures you will do poorly on tests.

You must identify the sources of your test anxiety before you can begin to eliminate or reduce their power over you. You have just read about how to improve your study skills so you can prepare more effectively. The other major sources of test anxiety are your negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations.

Identify the thoughts that increase your anxiety. Thoughts can make you frantic by creating images of catastrophic scenarios, such as: “I’ll never be able to do this.”; “If I don’t at least get a ‘C’ in this class, I won’t get into my major.”; “I have never done well in math.”; “I have to get an ‘A’ in this class or I won’t get into medical school.” You must try to challenge those thoughts to make them more rational. For example, say to yourself, “This one test won’t decide my chances for medical school.”; “With the right type and amount of studying and help from my instructor, I can get through this math class.” Corrective reasoning will directly result in reduced anxiety. Other ideas to eliminate irrational thinking:

While not performing well on tests can have negative consequences, it is rare that a student’s life or career is totally ruined by poor test performance. Spend your energy identifying what is creating the anxiety and poor test performance. Talk with instructors and the Academic Resource Center. Find out alternatives for making the grade you need, such as papers, extra credit, etc. Find out alternatives to your current major if current course material is beyond your capabilities.

(S)trategies for Test-Taking

There are test-taking strategies that can help you improve your performance on tests. Participate in Supplemental Instruction sessions, which are offered for many General Education courses. Obtain Idea Sheets on test-taking from the Academic Resource Center. Take USU 1730, where you learn test-taking skills. Ask your professor for suggestions on taking his/her tests. Work with your study group to find out what techniques they use to perform well on tests - then practice them using tests you create in your study group.

Additionally, consider these strategies:

(S)tress Management

Practice stress management on a regular basis and before each test. Stress management includes relaxation techniques, good health habits, and positive self-talk.