Got a Case of the Pre-Test Jitters?

Take these tips to calm your test-day nerves

If you’ve had nightmares about No. 2 pencils or been driven into a panic by the phrase “you have two minutes left,” it’s safe to say you’ve got test anxiety. Even if your stress level is not severe, you may have some anxiety when taking a test—especially the SAT or ACT, when you imagine that your entire future is on the line.

If you’ve got a big test ahead, take a moment to read these tips and tricks. And good luck!

The Standard Tips

Tried and true, these test-prep tips really can help reduce anxiety and stress. Try them out and find what works for you.

  • Start studying early. Giving yourself plenty of time to study relieves the stress of cramming. The more you know the material, the more confident you will be, and confidence is a great way to beat the jitters.
  • Get some shut-eye. It may be hard to relax when you’re nervous, but do your best to get some quality sleep the night before the test. Turn out the lights, turn off the TV, and concentrate on a relaxing image.
  • Think positive. You don’t have to give yourself pep talks in the mirror, but you should congratulate yourself now and then for your dedication to studying and being prepared.
  • Focus on your work. Once the test begins, don’t worry about what the other students are doing. Some people will finish faster than you, some will take longer; it’s only your work that counts.

Try Some New Tricks

If you’ve been dealing with “test jitters” throughout your academic career, then you’ve probably heard all the standard tips. If they haven’t worked for you, try these tricks:

  • Don’t forget your rabbit’s foot. Other people may laugh at your lucky rabbit’s foot or your lucky sweatshirt, but if it’s something that gives you a good feeling or sense of calm, by all means, take it with you.
  • Relax with your favorite music. Make a playlist on your iPod with your favorite tunes—maybe slow jazz to calm you, or upbeat, energetic numbers to get you pumped up for the test. Bring your headphones and listen to your chosen music while waiting for the test to begin.
  • Imagine your fellow test takers naked. This is an old-school bit of advice to help calm people who are nervous about public speaking, but who says it can’t work for test anxiety? Just don’t stare at the student next to you while visualizing—you don’t want the teacher or test proctor to suspect you of cheating!
  • Pamper yourself. Reward yourself for your hard work by eating your favorite breakfast on the morning of the test. Wear your favorite shoes/jeans/shirt, and make plans with friends to wind down after the test (maybe go to the mall or grab a cup of coffee—whatever makes you feel good).


This article was written by Sarah Engel

Sarah Engel is a staff editor for Sarah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

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