Test Anxiety No More

Do you have Test Anxiety? 

Almost thirty percent (29.3%) of Weber State University students have been diagnosed with some form of anxiety, said Tamara Robinette, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is a part of the wonderful team at the WSU Counseling Center. Anxiety can impair learning and test performance. 

Every day, many students face test anxiety in particular. Tamera Robinette stated, “32.3% of our students endorse that some level of anxiety affects their performance. The greatest anxiety trigger is testing situations.” Test anxiety is defined as a psychological condition in which test-takers experience extreme distress and anxiety. 

I used to be part of the 32.3%, but my journey with test anxiety did not start in college. It started in high school. During a test, my hands would get clammy, my heart rate would accelerate, and my breath would shorten. I used to wait to take my test until the last minute, and, usually, it would be at lightning speed to avoid the torturous experience. Little did I know that all of this was just a typical case of test anxiety. Here are some symptoms students dealing with test anxiety may experience before or while they are taking a test. 

Mild physical symptoms include: 

• Sweating  
• Shaking  
• Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)  
• Dry mouth 
• Difficulty concentrating 
Severe physical symptoms include: 
• Fainting 
• Nausea 
• Diarrhea 
• Vomiting 
• Memory problems 
• Depression 
• Low self-esteem 


When experiencing test anxiety, a person may show emotional symptoms as well as physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms that are related to test anxiety could include nervous worrying, feelings of impending doom, pervasive negativism, and overwhelming fear or panic.

The emotional symptoms I would experience before a test included feeling super nervous and worried, and I would have an extreme fear of failing. At the time, I thought that everyone felt this way before taking a test. However, eventually, I realized that my peers were not having any of these symptoms when it came to test-taking. Once I realized this, I became observant of what could be the cause of my test anxiety.

The causes of test anxiety can vary; for some, it is due to poor study habits, poor performance on previous exams, fear of failure, or an underlying anxiety problem. As I started my freshman year at Weber State University, I decided to more closely observe myself, and I realized that my test anxiety was coming from a place of fear: I was afraid of failing. Once I realized this, I decided to sit down with one of my professors to share what I was experiencing. He taught me the following techniques to help ease the stress.

  1. Schedule enough sleep the night before the exam. 
  2. Read through the entire exam and take my time to fully understand each question.
  3. Take deep breaths during the exam.

Since I had several exams coming up that semester, I decided to implement these techniques. The night before any test I would make sure to eat healthy foods and schedule plenty of time to sleep. During the exam, I slowed down. I gave myself time to read all of the questions thoroughly, and if I began to feel anxious, I would take several deep breaths. 

This advice helped ease my test anxiety somewhat, but I still had a hard time and had moments during the exam when I would forget the information. That’s when I started to study more than usual to feel like I was over-prepared for the exam. I would also schedule the exam with enough time so that I could use the entire time allowed by the professor. 

Without realizing it, I had started using some techniques recommended by the WSU Counseling and Psychological Services Center. Here are some of those helpful tips:

• Focus on Test Preparation. This could include creating a study guide, reviewing past homework assignments or quizzes, and creating your own practice test. 

• Relieve Psychological Pressures. Examples of this include arriving on time to take the exam, not letting the test define your personal worth, and using positive affirmations.

 • Use Effective Test-Taking Strategies. These include reading the directions, avoiding observing others, and pacing yourself during the exam. 

• Practice Healthy Behaviors like getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy meal, and exercising regularly. 

(See the Counseling and Psychological Services Center webpage on test anxiety for more techniques that could also be beneficial.)

Combining several of these techniques and regularly putting them into practice helped tremendously with my test anxiety. However, even though I was now going into the exams confidently and my test scores were high, I still had a fear of failing.

One day, I was talking to my older sister on the phone. I was so upset because I got what I perceived as a low score on one of my exams. My sister told me something that no one has ever said to me that made me see things differently. 

She said, “A test score does not define who you are, and it does not define who you are going to become.” 

From that day forward, I remind myself often of the words my sister spoke to me that day. Because of this new perspective combined with the techniques I learned, I no longer have the fear of failing.

Campus Resources 

If you struggle with test anxiety or relate to some of the symptoms mentioned, check out the Counseling and Psychological Services Center website for tips, activities, and peer support. You can also set a free appointment with a counselor to discuss personalized strategies for coping with test anxiety. 

If you want to implement techniques that could alleviate test anxiety by working on test preparation, note-taking, or time management, the Academic Peer Coaches would be happy to help! Learn more about us and sign up.


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