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Study Skill Resources

What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is a sense of unease and apprehension; frequently accompanied by symptoms such as upset stomach, restlessness, sleep problems, irritability, and “nervous” eating that precede the taking of an exam.

Test anxiety can also make it difficult to concentrate, which increase careless errors.

What causes test anxiety?

It’s natural to worry about whether you will do well on a test. Indeed, some degree of pre-test anxiety is good, for it focuses the mind on the task at hand and creates stimulation to meet the challenge. Problems arise, however, when the anxiety grows to the point of harming performance. Test anxiety is usually caused by self-talk that focuses on imaginary negative outcomes. If you don’t prepare adequately for the exam by studying, and you care about your performance, then it’s realistic to feel anxious about the possibility of failing.

Solutions to Test Anxiety

  • Remind yourself that a test is only a test and not a measure of your self-worth.
  • Give yourself quiet time in which you relax and imagine yourself taking the exam (visualization).
  • Arrive at the exam 5-10 minutes early and let yourself relax.
  • Don’t rush before the est. Don’t cram. These only increase anxiety.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a balanced meal one or two hours before the exam.
  • Realize that test taking is a skill and like any skill, one improves with practice.

Exam Prep: Problem Solving

Go through past homework assignments, lecture notes and your textbook, then:

  1. Make a list of important terms.
  2. Write down a definition of each term as it was used in the course.
  3. Think of examples or illustrations of each term.
  4. Figure out the term or concept’s relevance to the course.

Exam Prep: Short Answer

After reviewing your lecture notes and textbook:

  1. Make a list of important terms.
  2. Write down a definition of each term as it was used in the course.
  3. Think of examples or illustrations of each term.
  4. Figure out the term or concept’s relevance to the course.

Exam Prep: Essay Questions

  1. Review old essay assignments and select a number of topics that seem central to the course.
  2. Write an outline for possible thesis statements (the more details: facts, figures, quotations, the better).

Exam Prep: Multiple Choice, True/False, Matching Questions

These are all examples of objective test questions—questions that have a right or wrong answer.

  1. Study concepts as well as facts.
  2. Study your tests and notes by looking for the materials that can be answered objectively (dates, names, etc).