9 Strategies to Reduce Your Anxiety Before and After College Exams

the girl is wrapped up in a blanket

Are you stressed?



Inhale through your nose.

Exhale through your mouth.

There you go! Do you feel your heartbeat decelerating? Do you feel your breath rate slowing?

If not, repeat that short exercise a time or two. It will help.

Take it from us. We’ve been in your shoes – many of us still are.

Taking tests in college stresses pretty much everyone, but it doesn’t have to stress you.

No, these strategies will not decrease the difficulty of your exams, neither will they guarantee your unbroachable rank among the top tier of your class. Instead, they will focus on instructing you in the aspects of test-taking that you can control.

By putting you in a better frame of mind, we will help you increase your ability to cope with exam anxiety and post-exam anxiety while simultaneously improving your testing results.

Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!

Prepare Yourself and Forget College Stress

Have you ever heard the motto for the Boy Scouts of America? It’s simple. “Be prepared.” Although it’s not the first strategy for decreasing exam anxiety, it’s an important step we use to establish and order our external environment to calm down.

By ordering our chaotic life: getting requisite sleep, eating healthy food, maintaining hydration, preparing needed exam items, showing up early, etc., we can optimize our ability to perform when the time to shine arises.

Preparing doesn’t get us ready for everything, of course, but it does help handle anything unexpected that comes our way. If something can go wrong, it usually does. As we utilize test-taking strategies, we gain the ability to effectively address the unexpected and mitigate college stress levels.

Stress These Methods to Decrease Your Test Anxiety

As you read through these strategies focused on relieving college stress, take notes, or record what will best help you to succeed. We recommend keeping a journal of ideas to test what helps you the most and to modify or add to any of these methods. With that, let’s get started.

1. Visualize Your Success

Do not overlook or underrate visualization. Anyone from qualified professionals to students can use visualization to decrease exam anxiety and increase results.

Not only does visualizing success work with muscle, but it also works with your mind as well. Before exams, visualize taking the test successfully. Imagine every detail: the feel, the taste, the sound, the smell, the look. Your brain can’t tell the difference between your visualization and reality, so it prepares itself to achieve your desired results: less test anxiety and better grades. Check out one more great blog post from us that will help you to get prepared for your next exam.

2. Read the Directions Carefully

Read through all the instructions carefully and pay attention to every word before you write anything down. Use this time to identify keywords or phrases that you need to answer or complete each problem.

Think of this example. A teacher gives your class a worksheet. He tells the class to complete the sheet and follow all the instructions carefully. The first instruction stated, “Read through all directions before completing any of the rest.” Sensing a catch, the students read through each instruction carefully. They detailed how to fold the paper, cut out segments, etc. You feel panic as you see other classmates folding and cutting their papers. They are going to finish before you! But the last instruction said explicitly, “After step one, don’t do anything.”

Your anxiety will dissipate, and bemusedly, you watch all your other classmates fold and cut their papers. Eventually, everyone noticed what was going on, and your teacher emphasizes the point of the lesson: “Read instructions carefully.”

3. Start and Go

Newton’s laws state that when an object rests, it will remain resting, and, similarly, if an object begins to move, it tends to continue moving. That same law applies to you. Don’t just stare at your exam if you don’t know how to proceed. Begin working on the problem.

We recommend using this strategy all the time to avoid anxiety during exams. As you begin “moving,” you can enable yourself to keep moving forward. This strategy relieves exam anxiety and helps to save time effectively. Sometimes, the answer only comes when you take a step of faith and try.

4. Answer Easy Problems First

Complete the easy problems first and skip the harder ones. Take care of the questions that you can complete with minimal effort. When you encounter a problem that will take you extra time (and will increase your exam stress), skip it, and repeat this strategy until you have completed all the easy problems.

Use this strategy to complete a large portion of the test to guarantee the extra time to work on the more difficult questions. Do yourself a favor and finish the easy answers first.

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In connection with completing complicated problems such as essay questions, order your thoughts, and create an outline. Identify the elements that you need to complete the problem and focus on answering those elements. To do this, identify critical information and write out the main idea and sub-points. Breaking essay questions into small, manageable pieces will reduce your anxiety on exams and create a welcome peace of mind.

Now that you have these essential strategies to calm your anxiety during exams, it’s time to manage that post-exam anxiety.

Exchange Your Post-Exam Anxiety for Peace

Stressing out during an exam is common, but doesn’t it seem like the time preceding an exam triples the stress? Waiting can take an eternity, but we’ve found a few simple strategies that will help you wait for your test results without that post-exam anxiety.

6. Immediately Write Down Needed Information

After your test, it’s easy to overthink problems you’ve had trouble with or questions left unanswered. We’ve found that writing them down helps. By recording that information, you can look it up to address and forget it. Taking the time to write like this gives your mind a break and can diffuse your test anxiety.

7. Change Your Environment

Change environments. Move around. Get some fresh air. By changing the environmental factors that stimulate your five basic senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight, you introduce new trains of thought which help you alleviate stress. We recommend putting on your favorite music, for example, or going outside where there is fresh air, and there are no connections to the exam-taking experience. By the way, we also have some pieces of advice on how to recover after your exams.

8. Distract Yourself

It might sound cliché, but it works. When you distract yourself by doing things you love, you actually can forget that you even took the test. To distract yourself, read books, write, play basketball, or anything else that occupies your mind. Do you have any hobbies or activities that you love? Go and do them. By distracting your cognition, you take the smart way out.

9. Talk to Someone

Go and talk to someone – anyone, for that matter. Reaching out to people can decrease post-exam anxiety. Go and chat with friends, have lunch with your brother, or date that special someone that you’ve been putting off. Take the time to reach out, and you’ll decrease the time that you spend reaching in.

Reduce Your Exam Anxiety

Are you ready to conquer your next test? Learning to decrease and manage your exam anxiety and stress will help you effectively maneuver future tests so you can succeed in your college career and beyond.

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