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Coping with Final Exam Stress & Test Anxiety

Exponent article by Dr. Brian Kassar
Counseling & Psychological Services

With finals fast approaching, stress levels and test anxiety can reach their peak. The following tips can help you in managing the stress associated with finals:

  1. Start NOW! Start getting organized by planning for your finals, setting study times, etc. Try to establish summer and moving plans well before finals. Begin organizing lecture notes and reviewing for those comprehensive finals.
  2. Maintain a normal routine. Part of the stress with finals week is that your normal routine is disrupted. Try to maintain your normal routine around sleep, meals, exercise, etc. Some semblance of normalcy will be comforting and help reduce stress.
  3. Practice good self-care. Keeping your body maintained and well-fueled will energize your mind and help reduce physical symptoms of stress. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
Unfortunately, many students suffer from test anxiety. Keep in mind that some nervousness or anxiety is normal and can even be helpful. Moderate levels of nervousness can help you perform by giving you an "edge." However, too much anxiety can be debilitating. Here are some tips to help reduce test anxiety:
  1. Be prepared. There is no substitute for studying and preparing. Try to begin studying at least a week before your exam. Feeling well-studied and prepared can help reduce anxiety.
  2. Arrive early. Get to your final early so you don't feel rushed and can give yourself plenty of time to get situated. Avoid others who may add to stress or anxiety.
  3. Take your time. Budget the time you have to finish the test and use it wisely. Take the time to carefully read test questions. Try to be the last one done rather than the first; this will alleviate any worry about others finishing before you.
  4. Don't "catastrophize." Avoid negative self-talk and turn the negative things you tell yourself into more positive ones, such as "I am well-prepared, I can handle this test," etc.
  5. Practice relaxation before and during your test. Deep breathing, stretching, and visualization can all be done immediately before or even during your exam, and help reduce physical symptoms of stress.
  6. Don't panic! If you don't know an answer, take a moment to relax and think. If you still don't know it, rely upon common sense and good test-taking strategies to help you come up with the right answer.
Keeping some of these ideas in mind may help get you through some tough spots during your finals. For more information on curbing test anxiety, learning relaxation, and test-taking strategies, watch for our annual seminars on test anxiety offered at the end of the semester.


View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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