Managing Test Anxiety

You may be surprised to know that physical manifestations of anxiety (think butterflies-in-your-stomach) are not associated with reduced test performance. In fact, a little bit of stress and increased adrenaline can sharpen your awareness and keep you alert! Interestingly, worrying about test anxiety can be problematic. Great news: worrying about test anxiety can be reduced by learning that text anxiety itself is neutral or even beneficial.

Tips from LSC tutors

To help students manage test anxiety, we sought advice from the experts: LSC tutors! These successful Cornell students experience just as much text anxiety as the rest of us, the notable thing is that they’ve reflected on what’s going on for them and developed strategies for managing it.

How do LSC tutors manage their test anxiety?

Before the exam LSC tutors:

  • Prepare! Feeling well-prepared helps them feel less anxious about the exam.
  • Do practice tests so they get a sense of what the test will be like. Pro tip: if you can take practice tests under testing conditions (don’t refer to your notes unless you’re allowed to on the test, set a timer, sit for the practice test at the same time of day as your real test, take your practice test in the actual test room if possible) you familiarize your whole self with what the test will be like; this can help reduce worry during the real test.

During the exam LSC tutors:

  • Use good time management and awareness.
  • Quickly review the entire test and make a rough plan for how to allocate their time.
  • Calmly and quickly develop a strategy. Usually they answer the easiest questions first. Why?
    • They know their brains will be working in the background on challenging questions while they’re getting the easier questions taken care of.
    • Sometimes they can tell they will not have time to complete the entire test, so they plan strategically to leave blank the questions they are less sure of.
  • Are mindful to engage in self-talk that:
    • Promotes a growth mindset. (One of our favorite explanations about the growth mindset is in this Ted Talk:
    • Gives them a sense of perspective about this exam in the big picture. They know this test does not define them as individuals.

Get help if you need it

Experiencing some amount of test anxiety is normal. But, if you are finding that anxiety is impacting your quality of life, please reach out to the folks at Cornell Health for help.

Brady, Shannon T., Bridgette Martin Hard, and James J. Gross. “Reappraising test anxiety increases academic performance of first-year college students.” Journal of Educational Psychology 110.3 (2018): 395.