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Test Anxiety Factors

Understanding Test Anxiety

“My fears are like thundering elephants. Then when I get them out and really look at them, I see that they are actually mice with megaphones.”
—Bruce Rahtjen

Experiencing test anxiety does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you are not capable of doing college level work. In fact, you need a certain amount of stress for motivation. Your goal is to manage your anxiety at an level where you can perform your best.

There are three factors that can influence how confident you feel taking tests. Test anxiety can occur when these factors are not working well together. Click on each factor column heading below for an explanation and example.

elephant image
Anxiety Factors Triangle



In this module, you will assess yourself in relation to these three factors. What you learn will help you determine the causes of your test anxiety. You can then use the techniques presented in the Preparation, Strategies, and Stress Management modules to better manage your anxiety and improve your performance on tests.

Student Factors: Assessing your learning style

How you prefer to learn can influence the study methods you choose to use and how well you relate to your professors' teaching methods. Complete the VARK Learning Style Inventory to determine your preferred learning style.

Often, students must adapt their preferred learning style to learn more effectively. For example, a lecture with few or no visual aids requires that a visual learner use strategies during class that can help him/her to understand and record information. An auditory learner will need to use strategies when reading a textbook that allow him/her to comprehend and retain written material.

The Learning Strategies Chart provides tips to help you adapt your learning style to different instructional situations.

After reviewing the Learning Strategies Chart, go to Course Factors

Assessing course factors: Teaching methods and test formats

In this module, you will conduct an analysis of one of your returned tests during which you experienced anxiety. The analysis can help you determine why you experienced problems during the test. Your difficulty may be related to insufficient understanding of course material (teaching methods) or your test–taking strategies (test formats).

Use one of both of the following assessments to analyze your returned test.

  • Reasons to review a returned test
  • Analyzing returned tests

After completing your analyses and your assessment of Course Factors, go to Study Methods Factors.

Study methods factors: Assess how you study and your study strategies

If you spend hours studying and still perform poorly on tests, it could mean

  • You are not using study strategies that match your learning style and course content and/or
  • You are not studying in an optimal environment.

Use the following links to help you assess these two areas and make changes that allow you to “study smarter not harder“.

After completing your assessment of Study Methods Factors, read the Conclusion section.

This Assessment module was designed to help you identify problem areas that could result in test anxiety and poor test performance. To help you solve the problems you identified, choose the relevant module(s) in the P.A.S.S. Test Anxiety Management Program.

  • Preparation
    learn effective strategies to “study smarter not harder”
  • Strategies
    learn effective test–taking strategies
  • Stress Management
    learn relaxation strategies to reduce anxiety

For additional information or assistance, contact the Utah State University  Academic Success Programs, University Inn 101, Logan, UT 84322-0120,
(435) 797-1128,