How to tackle test-taking anxiety

A little bit of anxiety can go a long way when it comes to an important event in life, including taking a test. This means that being a little nervous can increase mental acuity enough to get through a tricky situation. However, too much anxiety can be more debilitating than helpful. You want to have a clear head and sharpened focus, not be consumed by the jitters and nerves so you no longer function like a normal human being!  

How can a student keep anxiety at bay during a big exam for the highest performance possible? Here a few tips on how to tackle test-taking anxiety to get the desired results!

Embrace the possibility of failure

This does not mean dive headfirst into failure without even attempting to do well on the test! According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), one of the reasons test-taking anxiety exists is a student’s fear of failure. Unfortunately, this is a common epidemic. Students know what is at stake with each and every grade they receive; however, the goal here is not to be too result-oriented.  

Remember growth mindset? The focus should always be on the process–as in studying habits, what was learned, how to do better next time–rather than the results. Learning to live with mistakes and grow from them is one of life’s most important tests because “success” is not a tangible end game. Rather, it is a cycle of improvement through failure and resilience. It is time to come to peace with this!

Prepare, prepare, and–wait for it–prepare

Bouncing off that, focusing on the process rather than the result is the way to go, right? And what is part of the process? Preparation! ADAA lists lack of preparation as another huge reason test-taking anxiety exists. Study the right way for the test beforehand, and students will go in with much greater confidence than if they slacked off or crammed everything within a short amount of time.  

A test’s purpose is not only to see how much students know about the subject but also how much effort they put into improving themselves. Do they have a good method of learning? Have they figured out whether sticking Post-its all over their room helps more than highlighting every other line of text? Figure out the best way for your child to prepare for a test and then encourage her/him to do it. There’s nothing that can’t be tackled with enough preparation!

Remember the Power of Now

The renowned author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, lives on this premise: “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” This is called mindfulness, and it will help you when you are feeling anxious because guess what anxiety is all about? Fear of the future–of a possible, usually negative, outcome. Your child may be picturing a horrible, red “F” scribbled across the top. Your child may be imagining your reaction to a low score. Your child may be envisioning a huge drop in class ranking.  

Dear student, those scenarios do not exist and may never exist. All that exists right now is the paper of questions before you. It is saying, “Hey! You! Focus on me right now.” That is the only real thing in your life at the moment. Whisper to yourself, “The power of now!” and get on with what you need to do right here, right now.  

Practice relaxation techniques

A good way to practice mindfulness and relax is to incorporate meditation into your child’s daily life. There are different ways to practice meditation, such as listening to a soothing voice guide you or listening to nothing but the natural sounds around you. Doing the latter will pull your child into the “now,” which will assist with the prior point. This one will also help your child in the moment if her/his brain freezes up and s/he cannot remember something.

Another good relaxation technique is to journal. If your child is feeling anxious before a test, have her/him write all concerns on paper and lock it with the binding power of ink. S/he can also talk to somebody supportive in the community or partake in a hobby that puts her/his mind at ease. It is different for everybody, but doing a familiar action can put her/him into a peaceful groove, even when the heart and mind want to race ahead.  

Be kind to yourself

Calling all students! Do not be too hard on yourself, put high expectations on yourself, put yourself down for feeling anxiety, or call yourself names. You want your best friend with you when you are going through something important, right? You do not want a bully next to you, tearing you down the whole time, right? You have to be that best friend for yourself, rather than the bully.

Be kind and loving to yourself–and above all, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for feeling bad about yourself, for not knowing a question, or if you do end up doing badly on a test. This ritual of forgiveness will get rid of future anxiety when facing a hard test because by then, you will love yourself too much to let a piece of paper or a grade tear you down! You will take on the challenge like the boss you know you are.

Calling all parents! Remind your child of this every day.

Say positive affirmations

Going off that, students can say positive affirmations to hype themselves up for a test or calm themselves down, whichever they need in the moment. Your child should not deny anxiety by saying, “You are not anxious,” but soothe it away by saying affirmations like, “You are ready for this! You worked hard for this! You will get through this! You are strong!” (Remember, do not have your child say, “You are smart,” otherwise with any failure, your child will believe, “You are not smart after all.” On the other hand, if your child says, “You worked hard,” but fails to achieve something, your child will think, “You have to work harder.” This is much more productive and helpful.)

Also, take note of negative affirmations that might be deeply embedded in your child’s own mind. They will be hard to get rid of at first, but taking note is the first step. After that, s/he can slowly exterminate these little rascals in her/his brain, creating more room for positivity!


Taking tests can be hard, but it is important to know how to handle them and how to go in with the right mindset because, the sad truth is, tests never end. They are all around us, even outside of school. Rather than letting anxiety get to your child, fight it with the tips listed above!

It is important to tackle this early on as young children. JEI Learning Center helps to do this by creating the right studying environments, building confidence in students, promoting creative problem-solving methods, and teaching good study habits. Find a Center near you, and your child will be ready for any test in life!