How To Beat Test Anxiety And Stay Cool During Finals


Death is coming. Death is here. Death is outside. There is no escape. Who’s that knocking at the door? Yes….. it’s death.

Ok, now replace all instances of “death” with “finals”, and I’ve probably painted a pretty accurate picture of what you’re feeling right now. Or maybe the two terms are pretty much equal in your mind.

As I publish this, finals are right around the corner. Maybe you’re reading this around that time yourself, or maybe you’re reading this before a smaller test at some other time. Such is the nature of blog posts.

Either way, if you’re here then you’re probably experiencing some degree of test anxiety. 

You’re worried that you’ll fail. You’re worried that you didn’t prepare enough. You’re kicking yourself for all that procrastinating you did. The ghost of Netflix-Binge-Sessions Past is now haunting you, and boy would you like to get it off your shoulder.

So, just how do you keep yourself from stressing out during test time? How can you stay cool in the face of all these finals?

First and foremost, look behind you. Yeah, you’re at your computer and there’s nobody there… but that doesn’t matter. We’ve got your back.

And by “we”, I mean the rest of us that get test anxiety, because you’re far from being the only one. Test anxiety is incredibly common. In addition, it manifests itself in lots of different ways.

I usually never felt anxious heading into a test per se, but I did often feel really guilty about the time I wasted leading up to it. Others might feel they prepared thoroughly, but still feel worried about how they’re going to do.

Hopefully this post can help mitigate some of the test anxiety you’re feeling – whatever variety it might be. Here are some tactics that have worked for me in the past.

Prepare Sufficiently

“Dude, Batman can easily beat Superman as long as he’s got time to prepare!” – nerds who are wrong

To be clear, no. Just no. That aside though, Batman’s crazy preparation can serve as inspiration for what you should be doing. Before you walk into the testing room, you should be prepared sufficiently.

That mean being prepared to a level at which you are satisfied. This can be hard when you’re really busy, but preparation really is key for tests.

Once you’re done studying, allow yourself to be ok with your level of prep. When going into the test, think “I’ve prepared as best I can; now let’s just do this!”

I think one of the biggest sources of test anxiety is procrastination – looking back and feeling like you wasted a bunch of time that you could have used prepping. You should be looking to reduce procrastination as much as possible, and also to study as efficiently as possible.

Here are a couple articles I’ve written that will help you out:

Know the Stakes

This is probably the biggest way I was able to minimize my own test anxiety during finals week – simply knowing the stakes of each test.

Remind yourself of how much the test matters. Unless you’re trying to get into grad school, an individual test doesn’t matter too much.

Yes, you want to get good grades – but what’s more important is what you actually learn and retain, along with the experiences and relationships you’re building outside of class.

As you may have heard in my interview with the founder of Lift (the awesome habit-tracking iPhone app), a lot of companies these days don’t care whatsoever about your GPA.

Some don’t even want to see a resume – they’d much rather see a portfolio on your personal website.

Does this mean you can slack off and play 78 hours of Animal Crossing instead of studying for finals? Probably not – but it does mean that, as long as you’re applying yourself outside the classroom, your test scores are not the be-all-end-all factor that decides your future.

This Isn’t Need for Speed


When taking the test, don’t think you have to rush. Keep track of time, but read things carefully, allow yourself to comprehend everything, and work at your own pace.

The smartest kid in the room isn’t the one who turns in the test first (of course, it’s also not the one who gets the highest score, but Einstein quotes can be saved for a later day). You’ve probably been told this a million times, but it’s still good to think about it again before the test. I know I always tried to go super-fast on tests, even though I knew it wasn’t necessary.

Make sure you’ve got all the materials you need beforehand. Finally, don’t be afraid to skip around. If you’re stuck on something, move on and do the rest of the test. Often, you’ll find that some test questions may give you hints (or outright tell you the answer) to other questions.

With these tips, hopefully you’ll be able to mitigate some of the stress you’re feeling during finals week (or at any other test time). Just remember – soon the tests will be behind you, and a great winter break will start!

Photos: snail

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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