Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Test Anxiety

  1. Jun 14, 2004 #1


    User Avatar

    It seems I suffer from this a good bit. I can recite my entire text book and even teach the entire book, but during test, I just can't remember anything. For example, I've made A's on all of my quizzes thus far in Calculus I; however, on my first test last week, I made a 54 (F). My professor knew something was up and talked to me the day he gave our test back. And when I asked him for tips on how to solve it, all he could say was relax more.

    Is there anything else I can do to help me conquer test anxiety? Because I don't want something stupid like that to be the reason I cannot get in graduate school in a few years.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2004 #2
    You might want to practice problems at home trying to go as fast as possible. That way going into the test you may be more confident. You may even finish the test early and be able to check all your work multiple times.

    A study group may help if your not already in one. Often in groups people can congratulate each other when a tough problem is done. That's another confidence booster.

    Try to think about what's on the test more than why your doing it. Study the Math for the fact that you enjoy doing it or you want to learn. If you think about what happens if you do poorly then you'll start to worry.

    I'm not really sure on this subject. I just thought of things that might be worth a try. I hope everything works out.
  4. Jun 14, 2004 #3

    On a more serious note... I totally understand. I do great at all the test we do at school, because they're not totally important, and at all the tests I do home (using past exam papers). However, when I sit for an official test, sometimes I totally screw up.

    What pisses me off is that when I get back home, I solve all the questions I couldn't solve during the test. Ugh..
  5. Jun 14, 2004 #4
    That happened to me during a Math exam this year. Half the problem was I had too many liquids before the exam. I couldn't get the answer before the time ran out.

    I still had to think on it when I got home but the answer was obvious. I've been kicking myself ever since. Friday I'll get my final marks for the year and finally be able to rest, hopefully.
  6. Jun 14, 2004 #5
    Some tips, in no particular order of importance:

    1/ Don't drink coffee etc as it will hijack your stress response. Don't worry about being alert - falling asleep during exams is extremely rare. :zzz:

    2/ Do a bit of 'cognitive rehearsal' i.e. sit down, close your eyes and visualise seeing yourself doing really well in the exam and feeling very confident. Practice this for a few minutes (or as long as you like) daily in the weeks running up to the exam. :rolleyes:

    3/ Decide that you are going to do something about this problem once & for all i.e. take control of your life. (I don't have a smiley for this one, but its a good opportunity to practice your visualisation technique).

    4/ Start to think of yourself as someone who is now good at exams. :biggrin:

    There are other tips I'm sure, but I hope you find these useful.

    Don't forget, we'll all have to call you Dr Cod one of these days.
  7. Jun 15, 2004 #6
    Meditation always works for me. I used to suffer from this "test-phobia" too. As an alternative to meditation, you could think of taking a test as a fun game.
  8. Jun 15, 2004 #7
    Studies have shown that chewing gum while studying and during a test improves memory and performance. Even though what you're going through is anxiety related this might help you.
  9. Jun 15, 2004 #8
    if the teachers allow you to have candy.
  10. Jun 15, 2004 #9
    I'm never afraid of taking tests, I'm only afraid when they hand them back out. Its just a bunch of problems on a paper anyway. I don't know how to help you other than telling you to try to change your mindset about tests, don't make such a big deal about them. Tests aren't a big deal when you think about it. They are just a few problems on a piece of paper and after you finish you find out which one's you got correct and which one's you didn't.
  11. Oct 8, 2006 #10
    test anxiety resources and blogs


    Some test anxiety,dyslexia, ADHD, resources/ blogs from a coach with 15 years experience:
    The new video BEING IN CONTROL:Natural Solutions for ADHD Dyslexia and Test Anxiety
    Also the book- BEING IN CONTROL : Natural techniques for increasing your potential and creativity for success in school- amazon.com
  12. Oct 8, 2006 #11
    I've never been a good test taker. In my opinion it just shows what you can memorize. In Chemistry especially I feel it is more important to show that you can do the reaction with actual chemicals then to do it on paper. Im not saying the paper isnt important, becasuse it is. But I dont think it's any good to just solve reactions on paper. My chem teacher last year would grade your work in actual lab for test grades sometimes, that was quite nice.
  13. Oct 8, 2006 #12
    Interesting enough I seem to suffer from a lack of this. I never feel nervous about tests or anything despite how important they may be, or how bad I think I'm going to go (or how good).
  14. Oct 8, 2006 #13
    When you get in there just take a deep breath and open the paper. Remeber you Know more than you think you do on the topic. You can't do anything about how much you should've studied or what you should've done before the exam, you stuck there for 3 hours might as well stay calm and think clearly. There is nothing more you can do.
    Also try not to think of the problem and the empty space that seems to take over in you mind. Believe that you already know the answer and be confident.
  15. Oct 8, 2006 #14


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Are the tests taken in your usual classroom? If not, spend some time studying in the room where the exams are held. Sometimes just being in a new location can add to the stress of exams. Being in a familiar environment also seems to help with recall.

    If you have some sort of learning resource center on campus, see if they have additional tips that can help you relax more.

    When you get the exam, first skim through the questions and jot down any initial ideas that come to mind for each question so you don't lose those thoughts as the exam progresses. Tackle the questions you are most confident about first; you don't have to work through the exam beginning to end, it's just fine to start somewhere in the middle and skip around. Save the toughest questions for last so you don't get bogged down and panicked when you get stuck on them and use your time first for the questions you have a good chance of getting right.

    Can you solve all the problems on the exam that was returned now, without looking at the answer key? That will help tell you if it's really test anxiety or if you've missed learning something essential. There's a difference between having the book memorized and really understanding it and knowing how to use what you've learned. If you still can't solve the problems in a more relaxed environment, set up an appointment with your professor to find out how to improve your understanding of the material.

    For some people arriving at the exam room early, finding your seat, and settling in with time to relax is helpful, for others that just gives them more time to dwell on the impending exam, and it's better to stay busy with something else in the few hours leading up to the exam and just set an alarm on your watch or cell phone to remind you when you need to get to the exam.

    You should also pace your studying. Last minute cramming can increase anxiety. I used to find that sitting outside the room talking with other people before an exam made me more nervous, because their worrying about the exam and cramming minutes before the exam would get me worrying too, even if I knew the information they were cramming, so I'd just take a walk around the building or sit outdoors until it was time to enter the exam room.

    Since you do well on quizzes, but not the exam, try to think of the exam as just a longer quiz...that really is all that it is.

    If it's the exam environment itself that stresses you out...sometimes just the formality of having all the instructions read aloud, someone keeping time on the board, proctors roaming around hunting for cheaters, etc....then see if your professor is willing to give you the exam at a different time. Maybe just before the rest of the class takes it, you could take it in a more comfortable environment, such as a small conference room near his office. If you take the exam just before the rest of the class takes it, that'll show you're not trying to stall, or to get answers from other people before you take it, and there isn't enough time for you to get answers to them. There are other people who need to take exams individually as well due to things like learning disabilities or illness, so it's usually not difficult to accomodate one more student if they have a severe case of test anxiety that's hindering their performance.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook