Overcoming Test Anxiety

Overcoming Test Anxiety 

Many of us at Hopkins know the all too familiar feeling of spending hours studying at Brody only to freak out and blank during the actual exam. It’s easy for students to experience this testing anxiety, known as excessive worry over doing poorly on evaluations, because they are constantly stressed over the impacts of bad grades on graduate or professional schools. However, overcoming testing anxiety means more than simply studying harder. Keep reading to find out tips on how to manage it! 

Meeting Basic Needs 

It is imperative to meet your physiological needs before even considering the next steps of overcoming test anxiety. Your brain is already frazzled during the stressful situation, so running on no sleep and an empty stomach will not improve the situation. When making a study schedule, try blocking off a set number of hours each night to rest to ensure that you are getting adequate sleep. This can help exam performance, as your brain consolidates information and stores it to memory during sleep. A well-balanced diet is also essential. If you cook, try looking up healthy recipes before your exam and meal prep so you can always be nourished. Exercise can also be a great benefit because it results in the release of endorphins, which improve your mood. 

Improve Your Study Skills  

Many students struggle with procrastination or inefficient study habits, which can worsen their testing anxiety by making them feel unprepared. To combat this, work on mastering the material well before the exam using active learning skills. This means having an organized study schedule, focusing on problem areas, doing practice problems, and reaching out for help when you need it. If you find that poor study skills are the cause of your test anxiety, a Study Consultant can certainly help you! Other resources on campus include PILOT, Learning Den, and TAs.  

Practice Desensitization Techniques 

Because testing anxiety is a type of phobia, it can be overcome by applying the principles of exposure therapy. We can decrease our fears of tests by simulating exam conditions when studying. Taking a timed practice exam in the same lecture hall can be one of the best ways to overcome test anxiety. On the day of the actual exam, you would have already experienced a version of the test. That way, you know what to expect on test day and there are no surprises.  

Cognitive Behavioral Techniques 

Reframing your mindset can reduce the negative feelings associated with taking exams. Try reframing the following thoughts on your own:  

Original ThoughtReframed Though
I’m not going to get into medical school if I fail this test. One test does not define my current or future success.
My GPA is going to tank if I do poorly.  My GPA is not a measure of my self-worth, and one exam or class does not have the capability to “tank” my GPA. 
I am never going to understand this material. I have the resources and capability to understand this material. I know that it’s okay to get help if I can’t do it on my own.