The following test-taking tips and strategies for dealing with test anxiety can be helpful to students at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.


Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I need to know?
  • What do I already know?
  • What don't I know and how should I learn it?

Taking charge of test taking begins long before the actual test. Improve your success by being prepared. To do well on tests you must first learn the material, and then review it before the test. Plan ahead and know when your exams are scheduled.

  1. Look at the course syllabus for objectives and dates.
  2. Keep handouts; they show what the instructor thinks is important.
  3. In lectures, listen for phrases such as "Three major types," "The most important result is," "You should remember" or gestures like pointing, underlining or check marks that would indicate important points.
  4. Read all instructions before beginning an exam.

Prepare like you are in the exam. Take a sample test. Time yourself. For example, if the actual test is 100 questions in two hours, then allow two minutes per question.

Don't just memorize facts. Material makes more sense if you are able to understand how it all fits together.

Do not attempt to "cram" the morning of an exam. The material you study will only go into your short-term memory and could confuse what you have already learned. Also, do not discuss possible questions as you walk into the exam. If someone mentions something unfamiliar and out of context, you may panic and think you didn't study enough. This will just make you anxious about the exam.

Test anxiety

Test anxiety consists of mental components and physical components of stress linked to test taking. Anxiety is an indicator of the importance we attach to an event and our concern that we may not succeed.

Suggestions to try:

  • Try to relax. Roll your shoulders or close your eyes for a few seconds.
  • Breathe slowly. Breathe slowly through your nose, filling your lungs, then slowly exhale through your mouth to calm physical sensations in your body.
  • Be positive. Say to yourself, "I studied enough, so I know I'll be OK."

The best recipe for alleviating feelings of panic is preparation. If you've reviewed the material often enough, you can have butterflies in your stomach and still feel confident that you'll pull through.