7 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety and Conquer Your Exams

Have you had that nightmare?

You know – the one where you show up for a final exam and realize you’ve hardly attended class all semester? Many people have. It often features high anxiety or waking up in a cold sweat, and then joyous relief when you discover it’s not Final Exam day after all.


We all take tests that can cause stress – English, math, driver’s education or college entrance exams to name but a few. And what we find – regardless of subject or potential consequence – is that feeling prepared is the #1 tool in pushing back against test anxiety.

Preparedness requires more than becoming a subject matter expert – in math equations, chemistry symbols, historical facts – whatever! Preparedness is mental and physical, and can be a preemptive strike against test anxiety.

Try these steps to help you reduce angst and achieve peak performance:

1. Plan for each exam

A test-taking luxury is that the Day of Destiny is known, allowing you to plan accordingly. With your calendar marked, your study plan should include knowing the importance of the exam; the range of information to be covered; the types of questions to be answered; your best study methods; tools that can help you; and how to minimize distractions. Check out last week’s blog post for more tips on preparing for your exams.

2. Get sleep

Anxiety on or before test day will increase if you’re not well-rested. Showing up over-stimulated or sleep-deprived will cloud your mind or jeopardize your scores. Beginning two weeks out, try sleeping at consistent times to condition your mind and body appropriately.

3. Feel physically fit

Walking, running, a gym workout or yoga will get the blood flowing, release endorphins and disperse tension. Consider adding in a favorite playlist or podcast to heighten the distraction from intense study. Exercise and diet work hand-in-hand to help achieve an optimal test-taking, anxiety-reduced mindset.

4. Eat right

Incorporating a balanced diet into your test prep routine has many benefits. You’ll have to eat, so why not do it right – especially at this critical time? An excellent place to start is with less of the sugary stuff, and more fruits and vegetables. Having proper foods on-hand and accessible is a way for your family to contribute to your success.

5. Relax your way

Building up your relaxation or chill mode is a great antidote to anxiety. Consider socializing, seeing a movie, taking a power nap, listening to music or visiting a park.

6. Reduce obstacles and obligations

Simplify your life. A cluttered calendar can cause stress and confusion. Move appointments that can be rescheduled, or trade responsibilities around the house with another family member.

7. Leave nothing to chance

On exam day, awake promptly (having set two alarms), eat properly, leave home and arrive at the test center early – and even have contingencies for road congestion or accidents.

By following these seven steps, you – yes, you – can master anxieties, avoid nightmares and advance towards the school of your dreams.