Pack your bag the night before
If your exam requires a test booklet, calculator, pencils, pens or other supplies, be sure to pack them in your backpack or bag the night before your exam. It can be helpful to create a checklist of all the items you need, especially if you have more than one exam. In the morning, double check your bag and add any items you may have forgotten. It may also be good to pack a water bottle or snacks.
Get there early
Running late can increase anxiety before you even make it to your classroom. Instead of leaving at your usual time, set your alarm 10 or 15 minutes earlier, so you can make it to the exam room with plenty of time to spare. This will allow you time to practice your calming techniques and get your materials ready. Plus, it can be a great opportunity to review your notes one last time before your test starts.
Ways to cope during exams
When you feel anxious during an exam, it can be hard to separate yourself from your emotions. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety and recenter yourself during a stressful test.
While it can be tempting to look at others around you, it can also increase your anxiety if you notice that you’re not as far into your exam or that you’ve spent more time on a question than others. Instead, try to focus on the exam in front of you. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can, and it doesn’t matter what others are doing.
Set a timeline
If you struggle with time management, try to set a timeline for yourself. For instance, if your exam uses a scantron, try to think through how much time you may have per question. Keep in mind that some questions will come easier than others. If your exam also involves hands-on problems, try to leave yourself enough time to complete the multiple choice questions and more involved questions. Remind yourself that it’s also okay to skip questions if you feel like you’re running behind. You can always come back to them later.
Take a deep breath
Remember those calming techniques we talked about earlier? Now is the time to put them into practice. If you feel stressed about a question, take a pause. Remind yourself that a minute-long break is worth it if it helps you concentrate or work through problems more effectively.
Ways to reset after exams
Test anxiety doesn’t just rear its head before and during exams. It can also crop up after you’ve turned in your test. Here are some tips to help you decompress and reset after a stressful exam.
Allow yourself to relinquish control
Once you’ve submitted an exam, that’s it. Relinquish your control over the outcome and allow yourself to accept that it’s in your instructor's hands now. It can also be helpful to avoid ruminating over questions you may have gotten wrong or problems you didn’t finish. Instead, allow yourself to breathe a sigh of relief that your exam is complete.
Focus on positive self-talk
It’s normal to think about the things we could have done or should have done during an exam. However, this may not be the most helpful strategy in managing your anxiety while you wait for the results. Instead, try to practice the same positive self-talk you used when you were preparing for your tests.
Move your body
Moving your body and engaging in physical activity is a great way to reduce stress, especially after exams. Consider taking a walk, visiting the Rec Center or shaking it out with a quick dance session.
Review your results on your own terms
Some people like to see their results right away or talk about them in class. Others may prefer to review their scores privately or wait until they have a chance to calm down. Allow yourself to see how you did on your own terms. If you’re worried about your test scores or are anxious to see what they are, consider asking a supportive friend to review them for you and share them in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
Resources are available
Campus resources are available to help you prepare for exams and get additional support for test anxiety. Here are a few to check out.