Academic Support

Test Taking Skills: Strategies for Coping

Too little anxiety (apathy) or too much anxiety (panic) are both problematic. A moderate level of anxiety gives energy and improves concentration.

The Night Before

  • Establish good study habits. Cramming increases the likelihood of panic. Concentrate on what you do know and try to think of likely questions to be asked.
  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Make sure you know the time of the exam, where it is being held and how to get there.
  • Keep the importance of the exam in perspective. Talk to yourself: "It's only an exam." "I can do it." "Stay cool."

On Exam Day

  • Eat a moderate breakfast or lunch. Avoid drinks or drugs with caffeine. Over agitation can increase nervousness and harm concentration and memory.
  • Do a relaxing activity unrelated to the exam in the last hour before the exam.
  • Steer clear of fellow students who are "anxiety generators." Panic is contagious.
  • Get to the exam room early to settle in and prepare your supplies and familiarize yourself with surroundings.
  • Tense all your muscles for a moment, then suddenly relax them. Take 3 deep breaths.

During the Exam

  • Read directions and underline significant instructions.
  • First answer the easy questions. Then go back to the more difficult.
  • Multiple Choice - eliminate the impossible answers, then make as good an intuitive guess as possible.
  • Essay Questions - take a few minutes to organize your thought. Jot them down and start with a summary sentence.
  • When confronted with excess anxiety, break it by doing something unusual: ask a question; get a drink; chew gum; eat a piece of hard candy; sharpen pencil; tense and relax large muscle groups; take several deep, slow breaths.
  • Don't rush; maintain steady pace.

After the Exam

  • Use the test as a learning tool. After the exam is over, don't torture yourself over mistakes.
  • Take a break and take note of how you were tested. Don't vow to study harder. Vow to study smarter.
  • Review the exam looking for the types of errors. Is there a pattern: e.g. did I use a - instead of a + sign in problems?