Final Exam Prep: 10 Study Tips to Combat Test Anxiety

Spring is finally upon us—which means longer days, warmer weather, and the impending dread of finals week. While this may not be your first rodeo, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get anxious come test time. Test anxiety can be extremely debilitating and drastically alter your performance. According to the ADAA, the causes of test anxiety can include “a fear of failure, lack of adequate prep time, or bad experiences taking tests in the past.” While you may think these nerves are inevitable, we are here to help you feel confident as you venture into finals week and slay your way to summer vacation.

We’ve created a list of our top ten study tips and strategies to help you combat test anxiety.


Get Organized Early

Don’t wait until the last minute to start collecting material for your test. Reserve some time to strictly collect and organize your notes in whatever fashion that’s suitable to your needs. Creating study binders or folders that encompass all previous classwork and necessary study aids will save you lots of time and energy when you are ready to sit down and finally get to work. Besides, if you realize you’re missing anything, you’ll have provided yourself with enough time to track it down or ask your peers for help.

Stick to a Schedule

Once you figure out your exam schedule, it’s wise to craft a study schedule that parallels it. Figure out what exam you’ll need to take first or if you have multiple exams on the same day. Knowing your testing timeline will allow you to tailor your studies to your subjects that need more attention. By creating a visual schedule, it will also help you to stay organized and break up what content you need to review on which days. Ultimately, creating a schedule ahead of time will help you navigate how much time you need to spend studying and what days you can ditch the textbooks and relax. Get ready to bust out your highlighters!

Make Your Own Study Materials

While you may receive study guides or review sheets from your teachers, it’s beneficial to create your own as well. When you make your own study guides, flashcards, or concept maps, you are essentially already studying. Anything that creates active learning is very effective for retaining anything you learn. This also allows you to use your creativity and adapt your content into study aids that accommodate your learning style. It’s important to note that everyone possesses a different way of comprehending information—find what works for you in order to reach your maximum potential.


Mimic Test Conditions

While you should definitely take time to study in environments with limited distractions, it’s also helpful to mimic the testing environment in which you will endure the exam. It’s always a good idea to take a couple of practice exams if possible. Try timing yourself, especially if you need to write an essay. You’ll be able to assess how much time to spend on each section and what information you can breeze right through. This will ultimately provide you with an idea of what you need to spend more time studying and what material you have already retained. Above all, mimicking testing conditions will hopefully make you feel more confident by the time you have to actually sit down and take the test.


Go to Review Sessions

Teachers don’t hold review sessions for themselves! If you have the opportunity to attend a review session, you should definitely do so. Most of the time, review sessions are held by the teachers who are giving you the exam. (That’s lit-er-al-ly the person who holds the answers to the test offering to give you advice.) Typically review sessions will provide you with more insight into the format of the test and what to expect. Gaining a better understanding of what to expect come test time can help reduce the anxiety you may feel about the upcoming assessment because you’re already that much more prepared. Plus, review sessions are the prime time to ask the questions you still need to answer.

Take Care of Yourself

Put down the sugary energy drink! Exam time does not need to be a time to neglect your body with a vending-machine diet. Find time to exercise, eat nourishing meals, and get plenty of rest. If you don’t take care of your body (which includes your brain) it will not take care of you when you need it too. Ditch the energy drinks, stay hydrated and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. A recent study of UC San Diego students by the College Health Association Assessment found that only 23 percent reported getting eight hours of sleep per night and 25 percent reported that sleep deprivation affected their academic achievements. Sleep is vital to your overall well-being. Pulling an all-nighter will leave you tired, irritated, and only amp up your test anxiety. Having an adequate night’s rest (8-10 hours) will be more beneficial than trying to cram material into the wee hours of the morning.

Join a Study Group

First and foremost, study groups are a great way to acknowledge that you are not in this alone. Acknowledging that you and your classmates are on the same team is reassuring and helps cope with exam anxiety. Studying with your classmates may even confirm your doubts or misunderstanding of specific material. You can share notes, gain different insights, and maybe even get some lingering questions answered. Above all, joining a study group is a way to break up your solo study routine and partake in some social interaction. While joining a study group may feel intimidating, you have to realize that you and your peers are essentially all in the same boat and people are willing to help each other out more than you may think.

Find Your Zen

Regardless of how much preparation you undergo for an exam, test anxiety still may get the best of you. It’s promising to have some relaxation tactics that can help you avoid a crippling panic attack during the exam. Practicing some breathing techniques can help monitor your heartbeat and bring you back to center. It also may be beneficial to have an encouraging mantra that you can recite to yourself when things are starting to feel discouraging. Perspective is a powerful tool; therefore find a way to keep it positive before you sink into a negative slump that can leave you frozen and unresponsive.

Avoid Paying Attention to Others

Like we’ve already mentioned, everyone has a different way of learning. If you start comparing what you’re doing to the overachiever sitting next to you, it may make you feel inadequate and anxious. Focus on your goals and what you need to do to be successful. What works for you may not work for others, and vice versa. This also is a valid point to keep in mind during test time. Pay attention to your own test and pace. Try not to feel intimidated by the people who are turning in their exams first or the sounds of pencils going to town in the essay section. Be mindful of the clock, and be assured that your preparation was not a waste.

Reward Yourself

After a solid study sesh, you deserve to reward yourself for the time and energy you’ve put into your studies. Watch a feel-good movie, hang out with friends, or bake some cookies. The less stressed you are during the study process, the more relaxed you’ll feel by the time you have to take your exam. Allowing yourself little rewards along the way will motivate you to stick to your study schedule. Better yet, find something to look forward to once all your exams are finished; just don’t lose sight of what you need to do to reach your goals. A reward will be that much sweeter after working so hard for it. Finals week is undoubtedly a stressful time, so don’t feel guilty about treating yourself in order to keep your mood as light as possible.

As our good ol’ friend Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While there are way more tempting things to do than carving out time to study (especially for all you seniors out there), don’t let study procrastination get the better of you. The anxiety and nerves that come with feeling unprepared are simply not worth it. By planning your schedule accordingly and preparing ahead of time, you’ll be able to grant yourself ample time to do all the things you want to do, while not feeling guilty about neglecting your responsibilities as a student. Above all, keep in mind that your finals do not determine your self-worth. While finals are an extremely stressful time for students, just know that you are not alone. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s saying, “summer’s coming!”

P.S. Don’t forget that will help you with any book or any homework question! With a library of over 40,000 study guides including summaries, analysis, and criticisms for the most important books, we have all the information you need to understand any book and excel in your classes.

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