What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

10 Ways to Overcome Test Taking Anxiety

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Whether you’re facing a pop quiz or the SATs, it’s natural to feel anxious about an upcoming test. And while a little anxiety can be helpful in motivating you to study and achieve your goals, some of us experience a more profound sense of dread surrounding testing. Along with feelings of fear, depression, and worry, we may suffer physical symptoms like headache, nausea, and even excessive sweating. Anxiety can be paralyzing at times, ultimately preventing us from performing our best.


Fortunately, there are steps that students can take to reduce fear and boost concentration during an exam. Here are CollegeVine’s top tips for overcoming test-taking anxiety and achieving your academic goals:


Go to Bed Early

A lack of sleep doesn’t just interfere with you ability to recall information on test day, it also makes you more prone to anxiety. In fact, a Pop Science article reveals that individuals with insomnia are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder compared to those who sleep normally. Consequently, if you want to reduce test anxiety, strive to get a good night’s sleep the day before the exam.


Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Studies show that certain foods help reduce stress, while others contribute to feelings of anxiety. Stay calm on exam day by eating a breakfast packed with fresh fruits, veggies, and protein. Avoid artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and carbonated soft drinks, as these are all known to exacerbate mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression.


Arrive at the Exam Site Early

Imagine the following scene: you leave for school 15 minutes late, hit traffic, and spend the whole drive worrying that you won’t arrive on time. Now picture arriving early and having time to stop by the bathroom or grab a drink of water before starting the test. Which situation makes you feel calmer and more confident about your performance? If you want to minimize test-taking anxiety, set an extra alarm the night before and aim to get to the testing site at least 30 minutes before the start of the exam.


Mind Your Breathing

Meditation is no longer a fad reserved for New Age types. On the contrary, individuals worldwide are embracing this lifestyle change which is known to reduce stress and improve sleep. If you struggle with test anxiety, try a meditation exercise before starting the exam. Resources like Calm, a meditation and relaxation app, offer guided meditation and breathing exercises to help users reduce anxiety, overcome depression, and boost sleep quality. You can also practice deep breathing during your next test to soothe raw nerves and stay grounded.

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Reward Yourself

Want to reduce your anxiety before a big test? Come up with a reward to enjoy after completing the exam! For example, you might plan to see a movie, grab pizza with friends, or just take a much-deserved nap while listening to your favorite songs. If you start to feel stressed during the exam, having a treat to look forward to can give you the motivation you need to push through.


Learn Test-Taking Tricks

It’s hard to relax and do your best work during a test if you don’t feel properly prepared. One way to mitigate test-taking anxiety is to learn tips and tricks to boost your performance. For example, when taking a multiple-choice test (like the SAT), it’s helpful to read the entire question before looking at the answer options. Additionally, you may want to answer the questions you know first and then come back to those that you’re unsure about using any remaining time at the end.


Take Timed Practice Tests

Most exams impose some sort of time limit on test takers. If you’re prone to anxiety, you might find yourself watching the clock rather than focusing on the questions. One of the best ways to overcome this fear is to take some timed practice tests ahead of your exam. The idea is to replicate the circumstances you’ll experience during the real exam so that you don’t feel blindsided on the big day.


For the SAT, Take the Test Again

If you’re anxious about taking a test once, odds are the thought of taking it twice is even more terrifying. However, if you go into a big test like the SAT planning to take it twice, you might actually experience a reduction in stress. Of course, you should still try your hardest on testing day. However, knowing you can have a second chance (or even a third) might take off some pressure and allow you to focus on the questions on the page, ultimately improving your performance.


Join a Study Group

If you’re taking a big test like the SAT, studying and preparing on your own is crucial. However, you might also benefit from joining a study group. Not only does studying with peers force you to focus, minimizing the risk of procrastination that occurs when you’re working alone, but it also helps you to find new perspectives on familiar material as well as concepts that might be confusing. Finally, studying with a group is a great opportunity to share your fears with others experiencing the same stresses. You can support one another throughout the experience and come out the other side stronger.


Find a Tutor

Being prepared is the best cure for anxiety. If you’re worried about an upcoming test (or all of your tests), consider working with a tutor. Not only can these experts help you improve your knowledge of a particular subject, but they can also teach you valuable study skills that will serve you for years to come.


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.