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The Truth About Taking Tests

An important aspect of stress management for test anxiety is having realistic beliefs and expectations about testing situations. You will be presented with four statements that represent common beliefs that students have about tests. Three of the statements are likely to result in increased stress and test anxiety. One of the statements can help you understand and cope with the stress of tests. Read through each to obtain some truths about test–taking.

Some people are naturally good at taking tests.

This statement is false. Some people know how to prepare and study for tests, making it appear easy - as if they are just “naturally good”. Many students are not sufficiently prepared for tests (even when they think they are). If you do not use effective study strategies during the hours you study, you will likely not be well-prepared, and you could experience test anxiety.

It's natural to react to test situations with anxiety or fear.

This statement is true. You can cope better with testing situations if you understand that some anxiety is natural. Fear or anxiety is what we feel in the presence of real or assumed dangers. This a remnant of our more primitive days when we had to make the constant decisions to fight or flee from threats such as wild animals. The fear response allowed your body to be ready to take action at a moment's notice.

However, this useful fear response causes difficulty when your fear reaction is out of proportion to the threat – which is typically how it is with test anxiety. Accepting that testing situations create a certain amount of anxiety can help you recognize the stress and keep it within limits that help you perform at your best.

My goal is to eliminate anxiety when I take tests.

This statement is false. Anxiety can help us perform because it gives us an “edge”, as explained in Belief #2. With the right amount of anxiety, we can be mentally alert and focused on performing to the best of our ability. Referring to the diagram, you can see that with too little or too much stress, your performance would be poor. Your goal in managing anxiety is to keep it within an optimal range where you can perform at your best.

Personal check

Using the diagram:

  1. Identify the position of your stress level most of the time.
  2. Identify the position of your stress level when taking a test in the class where you experience test anxiety.
  3. What do you think are the reasons for these results?
bell curve of stress


I've never been good at taking tests.

If you believe this statement, answer the following questions:

  • Do you drive a car?
  • Are you a student at USU?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are obviously good enough at taking tests that you passed two very important ones. Good test takers use effective exam preparation, test–taking, and stress management strategies and techniques. You can learn these strategies and improve your test performance. And, that is the objective of the four P.A.S.S. Test Anxiety Management Program modules.

Personal check

Think about the strategies you have used to be successful in other test or performance situations (e.g., athletic or music competition). Briefly describe what you did to prepare for these tests.

What did you do to manage any anxiety you felt?

Discuss how you can use these strategies to improve your test-taking performance this quarter.


Continue learning about stress management for test anxiety by working through the following modules: