The Women's Journal

Dealing With Test Anxiety

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Sweaty Palms, Knots In The Stomach, A Cloud Of Doom Descending…

Most people will recognize these symptoms of test anxiety. “High-stakes” tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE or LSAT can compound the problem.

Approximately one-third of students experience severe anxiety during testing situations, but there are clear steps that can decrease test anxiety’s negative effects. Here are some brief tips.
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1. Relaxation techniques

A good first response to anxiety is to focus on breathing, taking long, deep breaths while attending to the sounds and sensations of the air slowly moving in and out. With practice this will reduce the unpleasant sensations associated with anxiety and result in a calmer state that puts you back in control.

In addition, spend some time practicing quiet attentiveness. Focus on your breathing to the exclusion of everything else. Once you have slowed your thoughts, “scan” the body, beginning with the top of your head, and slowly moving down the body, trying to notice each sensation
occurring there.

These relaxation techniques not only help to reduce pre-test anxiety, but also provide with valuable tools when anxiety strikes during the
test itself.

2. Accentuate the positive

Try the “half empty/half full” game. For one week, list all the negative thoughts you have about the test like, “I know I’ll never finish.” At the end of the week, next to each negative thought write a true, positive thought, like, “Answering two-thirds of questions will usually end in a good result.” From then on, whenever one of the destructive negative thoughts from your list creeps into your head, focus on the helpful thought. With practice you can automatically chase away
your negative thoughts.

3. Perform

Reducing anxiety is not enough to guarantee success on test day; you must also be well-prepared. Students with test anxiety probably benefit more than the average student from taking many practice tests, and under circumstances as much like the actual test as possible. The familiarity that results from repeated exposure to the testing situation not only serves to reduce anxiety itself, but it also helps to routinize your test taking so that anxiety is less likely to
interfere with your test taking if it does occur.

University of Delaware Professional and Continuing Studies offers test preparation courses for SAT, ACT, GRE and LSAT. Please visit for details or call 302-831-7600.