Apply to vetted scholarship programs in one clickAdvertiser disclosure
Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
Top 10 Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety
Feeling nervous before an exam is completely normal. According to the Mayo Clinic, feeling a little nervous can even sharpen your attention and help you perform better. However, students with test anxiety experience debilitating feelings of worry and self-doubt that can negatively impact their performance. Test anxiety can result in symptoms such as inability to concentrate, upset stomach, sweaty palms, and racing heart. If you’re wondering how to reduce test anxiety, check out this list of tips to help you perform better on exam day.
1. Establish a study routine
This may seem obvious, but the key to success on any test is being well-prepared. It’s important not only to study, but to study efficiently and in a way that works for you. Establishing a consistent routine can help ease your stress levels and help you perform better on tests. Try spacing out studying over a period of time instead of cramming everything in the night before. It’s also helpful to find the environment in which you study best. And if you’re not sure where to begin, see if your school offers study-skills classes or other test-taking resources.
Related: Top study tips for college
2. Talk to your teacher
If possible, meet with your teacher ahead of time to make sure you understand what’s going to be on the test. Your teacher should be able to give you some suggestions on how to prepare. And if you feel comfortable doing so, disclose your test anxiety issues with your teacher. They may be able to give you some tips on how to feel more relaxed before and during the test. At the very least, speaking with your teacher demonstrates that you care about the class and want to do well.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
This one is crucial. Getting the proper amount of rest is an essential part of performing well. If you can, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before your test. While you may think it’s necessary to pull an all-night study session, in reality it won’t do you much good. It’s a lot better to study in short bursts over a longer period of time, then get a good night’s sleep so that you’re focused and alert the morning of the test.
Also see: SAT reading section tips
4. Eat a nutritious breakfast
The last thing you need is to be distracted by feelings of hunger while taking your exam. Eating a healthy breakfast the morning of your test gives your brain the fuel it needs to function. Some great food options include eggs, berries (especially blueberries), apples, yogurt, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, and almonds. Try to stay away from foods and drinks that are high in sugar. Proper hydration is also crucial, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
Don’t miss: How many times can you take the ACT?
5. Get some exercise
If you have time, try to get in some type of aerobic exercise the day of your test. Jogging, biking, swimming, or even just walking can help reduce tension and put you in a better headspace. If you don’t have time to exercise, though, try just moving around, rolling your shoulders, and stretching your legs before the test. Even simple activities like this can increase your blood flow and help you feel more alert.
6. Give yourself plenty of time
Waking up late and rushing to class will only increase your anxiety levels. Instead, get to class early and leave yourself plenty of time to settle in before the test. Pack everything you need the night before, set your alarm, and get out the door on time. Additionally, you may want to avoid talking with other students right before the test because their anxieties could increase your own.
Don’t miss: SAT math section tips
7. Practice relaxation techniques
There’s a variety of relaxation techniques that can help reduce test anxiety, but even something as simple as deep breathing can be effective. Try closing your eyes, breathing in slowly to the count of seven, then exhaling to the count of seven. Within two to four sequences, your body should begin to relax. This technique is especially helpful if your heart is racing or your thoughts are running out of control.
8. Visualize success
The night before, close your eyes and visualize yourself completing the exam and earning a good grade. Play the whole tape in your head, from the moment you wake up to the moment you finish the test. Although this may not seem like much, having a positive mental attitude going into the test can be very helpful.
9. Avoid obsessing over questions
Don’t let yourself get stuck on any one question throughout the test. If you’re having trouble, just take a guess and move on to the next one. Remember that it’s okay to miss several questions and still do well overall. If you encounter a question that you weren’t expecting, just do your best and avoid spending too much time on it. The last thing you want is to run out of time without having answered all the questions on the test. If you have leftover time at the end, you can always come back to those questions and rethink them.
Also see: How to improve your SAT score in 6 steps
10. Don’t let the test define you
In the end, you shouldn’t let the test define you. Keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that your entire future doesn’t depend on the results. If you do well, that’s great! And if you didn’t perform as well as you had hoped, it’s not the end of the world. Just keep it moving and see what you can do to increase your chances of success the next time around.
Summing it up
If you are still having trouble, remember there are resources out there for you. If you’re having trouble studying for college admissions tests, we can help. Check out our guide to finding the right test prep tutor and the differences between the SAT and ACT. You can also check out our article on what a high SAT score is, and how to convert your PSAT to an SAT score.
We also know that some people perform better than others on tests. Here’s a guide for low test takers to help you mitigate your test scores.
Start your scholarship search