How to Deal with Test Anxiety and Stay Calm on Exam Day


Test anxiety is more common than you might think. We’ve all been there, sitting in front of a test paper with our minds going blank and our hearts racing. But guess what? You’re not alone, and there are ways to manage this anxiety effectively. Understanding and tackling test anxiety can improve your exam performance and well-being.

What is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that can cause significant distress before, during, and even after an exam. A combination of physical, emotional, and cognitive reactions interferes with your ability to perform well on tests.

Common Symptoms of Test Anxiety

Symptoms can vary, but they often include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative self-talk
  • Panic attacks

Causes of Test Anxiety

Fear of Failure

The fear of not doing well or failing an exam can be overwhelming. This fear can stem from personal expectations, parental pressure, or academic goals.

Lack of Preparation

Procrastination or inadequate study habits can leave you unprepared and anxious as the test day approaches.

High Expectations

High expectations from yourself or others can create pressure, leading to anxiety. Striving for perfection can sometimes be more harmful than helpful.

The Impact of Test Anxiety

On Academic Performance

Test anxiety can significantly impact your grades. When anxiety levels are high, it becomes challenging to recall information, focus on the questions, or think clearly.

On Mental and Physical Health

Chronic test anxiety can lead to issues like insomnia, depression, and even physical ailments such as headaches and digestive problems.

Preparation Strategies

Effective Study Habits

Develop a study plan that breaks down your material into manageable chunks. Use active learning techniques like summarizing, questioning, and teaching others.

Time Management Techniques

Use tools like planners, calendars, and apps to allocate specific times for studying and breaks. Avoid cramming the night before the test.

Mock Tests and Practice Exams

Taking practice tests can familiarise you with the exam format and reduce anxiety. They also help you gauge your preparedness.

Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing can help calm your nervous system. Try inhaling slowly through your nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This involves tensing and then slowly relaxing each muscle group in your body. It can help reduce physical tension and anxiety.

Visualisation and Imagery

Visualising a positive test experience can boost your confidence. Imagine yourself calmly answering questions and doing well on the test.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Importance of Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for cognitive function and emotional regulation. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, especially before an exam.

Nutrition and Hydration

Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated can affect your energy levels and concentration. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary snacks.

Regular Physical Activity

Exercise can reduce stress and improve mood. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, whether walking, yoga, or a sport you enjoy.

Positive Thinking and Affirmations

Replacing Negative Thoughts

Challenge and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of thinking, “I’ll fail,” tell yourself, “I’m prepared and I’ll do my best.”

Daily Affirmations

Use affirmations to boost your confidence. Phrases like “I am capable” and “I can handle this” can help shift your mindset.

On the Day of the Exam

Morning Routine Tips

Start your day with a healthy breakfast and some light exercise. Review critical points but avoid last-minute cramming.

Last-Minute Revision Do’s and Don’ts

Review your notes, but don’t overload yourself with new information. Keep it light and focused on key concepts.

During the Exam

Managing Time Effectively

First, read through the entire exam, then allocate time-based on the number of questions and their difficulty—prioritise questions you know well.

Staying Calm Under Pressure

If you start feeling anxious, take a few deep breaths. Remember that it’s just a test; you can only do your best.

Techniques for Staying Focused

Break the exam into sections and take mini mental breaks. Close your eyes for a few seconds, stretch, or take a deep breath to reset.

After the Exam

Reflecting on Your Performance

Take time to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. This can help you prepare better for future exams.

Learning from the Experience

Use your reflections to identify areas of improvement. Adjust your study habits and anxiety management techniques accordingly.


Managing test anxiety is a journey, but with the right strategies, you can significantly reduce your stress levels and improve your performance. Remember, it’s not about perfection; it’s about doing your best and learning from each experience.

Writer’s Bio:

Carmen Troy has been the leading content creator for Essays.UK since 2017. He loves to write about the different data collection and analysis methods used in research. Troy has also been lucky enough to work as an editor for BBC.

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