Conquering Test Anxiety


Strategies to reduce anxiety for a successful school year

As students step into new challenges and exciting opportunities this school year, there’s one familiar companion that tends to tag along: test anxiety. The nervous jitters, racing heartbeats, and sweaty palms before exams are all too common for many students. Anxiety is a natural and common emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Whether you’re a high school student preparing for college entrance exams or an undergrad aiming for top grades, the tips and insights shared here will equip you with the confidence to face exams head-on. From understanding anxiety and triggers to developing a testing plan, we’ll explore ways to reduce test anxiety and unlock your academic potential.

Strategies to reduce anxiety for a successful school year:

Understand test anxiety.
Feeling anxious before a test is something many students experience. The anticipation of the challenge of an upcoming exam can trigger various emotions, including nervousness, stress, and worry. This anxiety is often caused by the fear of the unknown, fear of failing, or the pressure to be successful. Some students even feel like their entire future is riding on one test. What are your thoughts before your exams? If you fear you will be rejected by others or lose your dream future this can feel really scary. Your brain often responds to fear with a flight or fight response and anxiety. The problem is it is really hard to think clearly, remember information, or sleep before exams when your brain is responding to fear.

Develop a plan.
Some of the best ways to prepare for tests are to care for your brain and develop a test preparation plan. We often don’t think about what our brains need to be mentally strong, but if we want our brains to perform well on tests it is helpful to load up on brain healthy strategies. Consider including some of these strategies at least a few days before your test, including 7-9 hours of sleep, progressive relaxation before bed to keep your brain calm, and find three positive affirmations to say to yourself before taking the test, such as “I’ve studied really well for this test.” Try to remember that tests don’t define your capabilities, intelligence, or how successful you can become in the future. Develop a study strategy that works well for you. People often learn best by studying in intervals over time with 7-9 hours of sleep in between. During sleep the brain processes and stores information learned during the day, enhancing retention. Try engaging multiple senses while studying, too, such as reading aloud, drawing diagrams, or using flashcards to strengthen neural connections and improve memory.

Seek support.
Experiencing some worry and anxiety throughout your life is common as it can serve as a protective mechanism, alerting us to potential dangers or challenges. However, when anxiety becomes excessive or overwhelming, it can interfere with daily life and well-being. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health concern in America with anxiety affecting 40 million adults and 31.9% of teens. Some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are frequent excessive worry or fear, restlessness, rapid heartbeat, and avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety. If you think you or someone you care about could be experiencing an anxiety disorder, reach out to a counselor for help. Counselors can offer therapies and work with you to develop a plan to reduce anxiety. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable with a qualified therapist.

Jennifer Wilmoth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Thrive Forward Therapy in the Suwanee area with over a decade of experience. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with families and individuals dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with couples who want to improve their relationship, teens experiencing difficulties at home or school, children experiencing behavioral or relational concerns, anxiety, and depression. Learn more at


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