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Test Anxiety. Office of Special Services for Students VMI Building, 2 nd Floor 828-9782 Lisa Webb, Interim Director Amy Miller, Learning Specialist. What is Test Anxiety?.

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test anxiety

Test Anxiety

Office of Special Services for Students

VMI Building, 2nd Floor


Lisa Webb, Interim Director

Amy Miller, Learning Specialist

what is test anxiety
What is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is defined as a state of uneasiness and distress before and during a test that often lowers performance.

test anxiety is not
Test Anxiety is NOT…

caused by not studying, not studying effectively or not being prepared.

symptoms of test anxiety
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
  • Physical symptoms can include:
    • Sweating
    • Shaking
    • Rapid heart beat
    • Dry mouth
    • Fainting
    • Nausea
    • “Butterflies" in the stomach
    • Physical illness
symptoms of test anxiety1
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
  • Cognitive and behavioral symptoms can include:
    • Fidgeting
    • Avoidance
    • Substance abuse –using "downers" such as prescription medications and alcohol
    • “Blanking" out answers to the test, even though you know the information
    • Negative self-talk
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Racing thoughts
symptoms of test anxiety2
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
  • Emotional symptomscan include:
    • Depression
    • Low self-esteem
    • Anger
    • Hopelessness
    • Helplessness
    • Frustration
    • Fear
tips to reduce test anxiety
Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety
  • Prepare systematically.
    • Study and practice the material that will be on the test.
    • Develop a consistent pre-test routine, as possible.
    • Use study groups or involve others in your study sessions.
  • Talk to your instructor.
    • Make sure you understand what's going to be on the test.
    • Let your instructor know that you feel anxious when you take tests, he or she may have suggestions and other resources to help you succeed.
  • Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Deep-breathing exercises
    • Visualization
  • Eat before the exam.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
more tips
More Tips
  • Don't ignore a learning disability.
    • Find out if there is an underlying condition that interferes with the ability to learn, focus or concentrate, for example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia.
    • A student diagnosed with a learning disability has a right to adjustments to help with test taking, such as extra time to complete a test or having questions read aloud.
  • Stay hydrated.
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Avoid sugary drinks: soda, they can cause your blood sugar to peak and then drop
    • Avoid caffeinated beverages: energy drinks or coffee, they can cause or increase anxiety
  • Get some exercise.
    • Regular aerobic exercise, and exercising on exam day, can release tension.
ways to beat test anxiety during the test
Ways to Beat Test Anxiety During the Test
  • Read all directions carefully
  • Stay focused
  • Take deep breaths
  • Stay positive
  • Stay relaxed
    • Change positions during the exam to help relax and/or regain focus
  • Don’t cram right before the test starts - it will cause unnecessary anxiety
  • Be prepared for the test, with pen/paper/ calculator etc.
more ways
More Ways…
  • On multiple choice questions, read all answers before making a selection
  • If you go blank, skip the question and go back
  • If it is an essay exam pick one question and start writing, it may help trigger your responses for other questions
  • Don’t watch the time
  • Don’t worry about when others finish


Test anxiety is


You are NOT alone,

if you suffer from it.

special services for students

Special Services for Students

For More Information

Please contact:

Lisa Webb, lbwebb@vcu.edu or

Amy Miller, ammiller4@vcu.edu