Social Anxiety Disorder Coping How to Overcome Test Anxiety By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 17, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Print Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety in which fear of failure contributes to symptoms that interfere with your ability to perform well in an exam situation. Before a test, anyone can feel a bit anxious. If you experience serious test anxiety, you may have physical symptoms such as a headache, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and light-headedness. You could even have a panic attack, during which you may feel like it's hard to breathe or you may think you're having a heart attack. Feelings of anger, fear, and helplessness are other symptoms of test anxiety, as are thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others. If you experience test anxiety, there are a number of coping strategies that you can employ. Below are 10 tips to help you cope. Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments for Test Anxiety 1 Prepare Well franckreporter / Getty Images Ensuring that you are well-prepared for a test can put your mind at ease and help get rid of the anxiety you may feel when test day arrives. Cramming for a test or exam will only increase your anxiety. Instead, follow this routine to give yourself the best chance at learning all the material well: Ask friends who study regularly for advice.Find a study skills tutor.Join a study group.Read books about study skills. Finally, learn all you can about the test or exam in advance. Knowing the types of questions and whether they are multiple-choice or essay can help ensure that there will be no last-minute surprises. 2 Watch Self-Talk Jamie Grill / Getty Images When performance suffers because of test anxiety, it can be easy to fall into a downward spiral of negative thinking. Watch what you are telling yourself and replace any negative thoughts with positive ones. Consider how rational your thoughts are and whether there are better things you could say to yourself. Don't Tell Yourself "I should have studied more." "I must be stupid." "I have to do well, everything is on the line." Do Tell Yourself "I am prepared for this test." "Even if I don't do well, it's not the end of the world." "I am smart enough to do well." Tips for Coping With Test Anxiety 3 Visualize Success Elite athletes visualize themselves succeeding in competition. You can do the same to overcome test anxiety. While studying, imagine yourself feeling confident and clearheaded in the exam. Visualizing yourself doing well on the test can help you make it happen in real life. 4 Use Relaxation Strategies Sean Malyon / Getty Images Make use of relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), and guided imagery. Use these strategies in the weeks leading up to a test, and during the testing situation as needed. 5 Stay Healthy Hero Images / Getty Images When faced with multiple tests or exams, you might start to neglect your physical health. Don't fall into this trap! Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good nutrition are all important components of a lifestyle that will keep stress at a minimum. On the day of a test, be sure to eat an adequate breakfast and avoid excess caffeine, as this will only contribute to anxiety. 6 Arrive Early Michael Crinke / Getty Images Nothing will heighten anxiety like the feeling of rushing to get to a test. Arrive at least 10 minutes early. If waiting for the test to begin makes you nervous, bring along a magazine or other diversion to keep your mind occupied. Avoid interacting with people who are anxious before a test. 7 Focus During the Test Peter Cade/Getty Images During the test, do everything you can to maintain focus. If you find yourself becoming anxious, stop and regroup. Sharpen your pencil, ask a question, or focus on taking deep breaths. Remember to take your time but check your watch to pace yourself. Before starting the test, do a quick review and read directions twice. Start with the easiest questions first. 8 Accept a Little Anxiety azsoslumakarna / Getty Images Recognize that a little bit of anxiety before a test is a good thing. If you did not feel nervous at all, you might not be motivated to do your best. It is only when anxiety becomes unmanageable that it becomes a problem. 9 Expect Setbacks Peter Cade / Getty Images If you have a bad experience and get a grade that's lower than you were expecting, remind yourself that there will always be roadblocks along the way. Plan for a better experience next time and know that one bad test result does not mean that you can't improve in the future. 10 Reward Yourself Getty Images Plan a reward for yourself after the test. Take some time to relax and clear your mind. Don't dwell on mistakes you may have made or worry about how you did. Whenever possible, give yourself a break before starting to study for another test. What Causes Test Anxiety and Academic Stress? 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Zwettler C, Reiss N, Rohrmann S, Warnecke I, Luka-Kausgrill U, Van Dick R. The relation between social identity and test anxiety in university students. Health Psychol Open. 2018;5(2):2055102918785415. doi:10.1177/2055102918785415 Von der Embse N, Jester D, Roy D, Post J. Test anxiety effects, predictors, and correlates: A 30-year meta-analytic review. J Affect Disord. 2018;227:483-493. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2017.11.048 Additional Reading Test Anxiety. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety. By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Social Anxiety Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.