Many students experience anxiety during test taking. There can be a variety of reasons for this, but the end result may be that they perform poorly an exams. In these cases, the poor performances are often not related to lack of ability or preparation, but more an inability to retrieve information as effectively while taking the test.

Students often report that their “mind goes blank” when this happens. When our anxiety spikes, it makes it harder for us to perform to the best of our ability. While test anxiety is common, luckily there are various strategies that many students find helpful.


Identifying what your most effective personal coping skills are can be one of the best strategies for coping with emotional distress. For anxiety, there may be activities that you engage in that help take your mind off of what is worrying you.

Some common coping strategies for anxiety are exercise, talking to a supportive friend or family member, or listening to music. There are more aspects to identifying what coping strategies work for you and to learn more about coping, follow this link.

We are constantly narrating our personal experience and are often not accurate to what exactly is taking place. The tone of our narration, which is based on many factors, can directly influence our emotions.

For example, if we are running late and there is unexpected traffic, tell ourselves “Oh no, I am going to be late for my class and I’ll be so disruptive when I log on!”

Simply having that thought can lead to feeling anxious, meaning that it is based on your interpretation of the events as opposed to the events them selves.

Self talk can play an important role in how we experience our emotions, so please feel free to check out our page dedicated to it.

Visit our page on Everyday Mindfulness and Meditation to learn more about mindfulness techniques and how they might help you with test anxiety. 

Using deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help with feeling anxious. In general, when we begin to experience the emotion of anxiety, our body begins to react physiologically.

Sometimes this results in our body going into full ‘fight or flight’ mode, where we have many intense physical reactions, many of which are described above in the signs and symptoms section. Using deep breathing can help us calm down and feel more relaxed.

This can be done through the use of apps, biofeedback equipment, or other means. To learn more, please look at our deep breathing section. If you are interested in learning more about biofeedback specifically, please go to our biofeedback page here.

Student may also find is helpful to try to recreate the testing environment, as well as being successful in it.

For example, if a student knows that the exam qill be timed and held online, it may be helpful to go to their workspace and pretend they are taking they exam. This may help feel like the testing environment is more positive.

Another way to do this is to close their eyes and imagine taking the test in a calm manner. In this scenario, it is helpful to think about the exam in as specific a way as possible. Who is sitting next to you? What does the instructor say? What do you do if you start to feel a little stress?


Start with as little as one minute, then aim to do 7 minutes each time.
It can be something like “calm”, “relax, or any other positive word or phrase. Practice repeating it to yourself.
Try to be as specific as possible during this exercise, including smell, who is in the room, etc.