4 Ways to Combat Test-Taking Anxiety

Test-taking can be super stressful! Here's a few ways to relieve that a bit!

Beads of perspiration start rolling down my neck, my hands become oddly clammy, my stomach feels light, and I begin murmuring the few Hindu prayers I know by heart. Despite having only a few months of school left before I graduate, I’ve never been able to keep test-taking anxiety at bay. I struggled with this internal conundrum during the SAT and my final exams. Sometimes, the stress can be an uncomfortable knot in the pit of your stomach during the exam. For high school seniors, semester exams often contribute to a large portion of your marks and are vital components of your college admission, so it’s perfectly reasonable to feel this way. Words of encouragement may not always be an effective way to pacify someone who has test-taking anxiety. But here are a few steps you can take toward combatting it.

1. Make your environment comfortable

Once you acclimate to the atmosphere, you want to steadily adjust to the situation. You have to learn how to get to this stage in your own way. Try to sit in the most comfortable, well-lit spot in the room if you’re allowed to choose your place for the test. Have a bottle of water or your favorite energy drink handy so you can take swigs between questions to clear your mind. It also helps if you can picture your environment differently for a little while. You can imagine that you’re sitting at your desk at home writing the same paper and thinking the same thoughts. Visualizing this comfort zone can ease your nerves during the exam so you can finish without constantly worrying about the questions.

2. Get all your essentials

Be well-prepared with all the stationary and any other items you need for the exam. For example, always have a back-up calculator, extra pens, pencils, and geometrical instruments in the event of a malfunction. This can help diffuse the tension while you’re answering questions, as it can be emotionally settling to know that you’re amply prepared.

Related: 9 Weird Test Prep Techniques That Actually Work

3. Keep to yourself

Before every exam, my class is in an uproar. People get tense, impatient, and begin aggravating one another. The class is just a buzz of shouting, arguing, sometimes, even tears. Sometime last year, I decided to keep myself out of everything for my stress levels and sanity. The tense atmosphere and negative energy used to impact my emotional and mental faculties before an exam. Now I just keep to myself before an exam so I can think and review. I also feel this is a good time to reflect on my preparation. This helps filter out the white noise of what everyone is saying around me, and during the exam, things I heard don’t derail my train of thought, sending me into a state of panic. Having that “alone time” will help you perform to the best of your ability as you don’t let any external influences affect you. I follow the same habit between the essays and during the breaks between subjects for SATs.

Related: Top 3 Smart Tips for Stress–Free Test Prep

4. Think positive thoughts

This doesn’t necessarily translate to believing all those proverbial exam quotes we often desperately look to for comfort, even if they don’t help. It’s more about altering your perception to test-taking. Don’t see the test as a giant hurdle that could hinder you, focus on doing your best and not worrying about the outcome.

Stay positive about what you’ve written even if the question is a bit confusing. For example, if you’re taking a math exam, remember to show all your working correctly and write out all the steps so you’re able to maximize your score. Putting down all your thoughts on the exam paper can help gain a lot of clarity. Even if you’re unable to get the answer, just knowing that you have something substantial can give you the confidence to proceed to the next question. After completing the test, you should try not to think about it too much and work toward your next goal.

Test-taking comes with its own stress. Changing your approach can ease your disposition toward it and improve your performance in the future. Even in your senior year, you have many chances to prove yourself and excel—there’s still time to crumble that mental wall you built for yourself.

What do you do to alleviate test-taking anxiety? Tell us @CollegeXpress!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Shivani Ekkanath

Shivani Ekkanath

As a person applying to college this year, I want to chronicle this crazy and unpredictable yet rewarding and fascinating journey so the experience feels less daunting for other students. I'm currently preparing to study Political Science for my undergraduate degree while trying my best to win a battle with the pressures of the IB diploma. I'm a lover of music, debating, reading about current affairs, dancing, baking (not too well), and writing. I'm also an an aspiring journalist and hope to attend Columbia University one day and work for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me organize the schools I wanted to choose from in one place, which I could then easily compare and find the school that was right for me!



High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!

Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Geneva College

Beaver Falls, PA

Thiel College

Greenville, PA

High Point University

High Point, NC