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Test Anxiety and Strategies to Overcome It

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Test Anxiety

In the following weeks students will be taking several performance assessments that contribute to their future academic success. Test anxiety is a common hindrance that many students experience. According to the American Test Anxieties Association about 16-20% of students have high test anxiety, while 18% experience moderately-high test anxiety. Test anxiety can cause an array of problems in students, such as headache, upset stomach, loss of focus and anger. The higher the anxiety the more it reduces working memory, confuses reasoning, increasing mistakes, and lowers test scores. Students with high anxiety perform around 12 percentile points below their low anxiety peers (about half of a letter grade below).  

Research has shown that providing students with tools and strategies can assist students in overcoming test anxiety.  Two easy steps to mitigating test anxiety are getting a good night’s rest and eating a healthy breakfast on the day of the test. Here are a few other strategies that can assist in minimizing test anxiety.  

1.     Set Reasonable Expectations: Remember to think about it as one test at a time. Set reachable goals. If you set goals that are hard to achieve, it will only cause frustration and lack of motivation.

2.     Address the what-if-questions: Before an exam we tend to have several negative “what-if” thoughts. “What if I fail?” or “What if I run out of time.” Try writing a what-if question that is positive which will reverse the negative self- talk. For instance, “What if I can remember more than I think I can?”

3.     Practice Relaxation Techniques: If you are becoming tense during the exam, take deep slow breathes and consciously relax your muscles, one at a time. This can refresh your body and will allow you to better focus on the exam.

For more strategies to combat test anxiety check out:


Also remember teachers and school counselors can be a great resource!



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