What is test anxiety? Anxious feelings or nervousness before and during a test that often lower performance.

What it is NOT: Anxiety caused by not studying, not studying effectively or not being prepared.

Signs of stress and anxiety

  • Headaches
  • Heart pounding
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset
  • Mind goes blank
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate or remember what you studied well
  • Wish to get out of the situation

Strategies to reduce anxiety before and during tests 


  • Get regular exercise, preferably a few times a week
  • Cut down on caffeine intake
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Choose nutritious foods
  • Take brief breaks regularly during studying
  • Practice mindful breathing, other breathing exercises, or meditation daily. For at least 10 minutes a day, AND whenever feeling anxious:
    • Breathe in a little slower and deeper than usual, at a comfortable rhythm for you, silently counting to 3 or 4
    • Exhale through your mouth, letting tension flow out of your body, imagine letting go of worries, silently counting to 3 or 4
  • •Practice whole body (progressive muscle) relaxation daily
    • If you would like to learn to do this, you can schedule with a medical school counselor at University Health Services Counseling and Consultation Services, (608) 265-5600, ext. 2
    • You can also try the UHS Audio Relaxation Exercises

Mental and emotional

  • Learn to notice and interrupt worries or negative thoughts that spiral into 'catastrophic' thinking and can result in anxiety or panic feelings
  • In combination with relaxation and breathing, learn how to change global negative thoughts to more realistic thoughts; ask yourself what you know to be true about yourself and the situation

For individual help with anxiety or stress, call UHS Counseling at (608) 265-5600, ext. 2, and ask to schedule an appointment with one of the medical school counselors.

Additional strategies to reduce anxiety can best be addressed on an individual, personalized basis with a counselor. We can identify stressors that interfere with your academic performance and personal life, and then develop individual plans for reducing anxiety.

For help with test preparation, study tips, and test taking, contact School of Medicine and Public Health Academic Support Services at the Health Sciences Learning Center (HSLC).