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Test Anxiety: Tips & Techniques: Home

Tips and techniques to assist in managing test anxiety.


  • Tell yourself, "I can be anxious later; now is the time to take the exam."
  • Counter negative thoughts with other more valid thoughts like, "I do not have to be perfect."
  • Take a couple of slow, deep breaths, and try to maintain a positive attitude.
  • If allowed, get a drink or go to the bathroom.
  • Ask the instructor a question (but don't ask for answers).
  • If allowed, eat something. A handful of nuts and raisins will give you an energy boost.
  • Do something different. Break your pencil lead, and then sharpen it. This allows you to do something physical – and can distract your mind momentarily until you get back on track.
  • Know that there is no such thing as failure – the only failure is not trying at all, so strive to do your personal best!
  • Come to the understanding that you will not know every question on the test, but feel confident and give yourself praise for trying, even if you don’t get the score you want.
  • Tense and relax the muscles in several parts of your body, and then take several deep breaths with your eyes closed.
  • Try calming yourself by saying a couple of sentences like: "This test will not permanently affect my life. I am going to feel calm and relaxed."
  • Anticipate test anxiety – what will trigger your anxiety?
  • Cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed – when the fear comes, just pause.  Refocus on what you have to do.


There are both short-term and long-term relaxation response techniques that help control emotional (somatic) and worry (cognitive) test anxiety. Once these procedures are learned, the relaxation response will take the place of an anxiety response. 

Tensing and Relaxing Method

  • Put your feet flat on the floor.
  • With your hands, grab underneath the chair.
  • Push down with your feet and pull up on your chair at the same time for about five seconds.
  • Relax for five to ten seconds.
  • Repeat the procedure two or three times, and relax all your muscles except the ones that are actually used to take the test.

The Palming Method

  • Close and cover your eyes (open) using the center of the palms of your hands.
  • Prevent your hands from touching your eyes by resting the lower parts of your palms on your cheekbones and placing your fingers on your forehead.  Think of some real or imaginary relaxing scene. Mentally visualize this scene, and picture the scene as if you were actually there, looking through your own eyes.
  • Visualize this relaxing scene for one to two minutes.

The Deep Breathing Method

  • Sit straight up in your chair, in a good posture position.
  • Slowly inhale through your nose.
  • As you inhale, first fill the lower section of your lungs and work your way up to the upper part of your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Wait a few seconds and repeat the cycle.

The Thought-Stopping Technique

  • Visualize a big red stop sign, and then silently shout to yourself, "Stop!" or "Stop thinking about that!"
  • After your "silent shout," either relax yourself or repeat one of your positive self-talk statements. 
  • After every “shout”, use a different relaxation technique/scene or positive self-talk statement.
  • Thought-stopping works because it interrupts the worry before it can cause high anxiety or negative emotions. During the interruption, you can replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk.


Information was excerpted from the following: