The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Test anxiety-Staff offer stress relief tips

By Sharon Murra-Kapon/south news editor

Photo Illustration by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian
Photo Illustration by Johnathan Deaton-Lee/The Collegian

With spring semester concluding, students are facing their greatest anxiety—tests.

A normal level of anxiety keeps students motivated to study, counselors say, but if that level increases too much, it may interfere with a student’s learning and remembering; it could even block good performance during a test.

While some students are aware of this problem, most of them do not know they have anxiety. They simply think they cannot do well during the test because they are not smart enough.

How can someone know when he is struggling with test anxiety?

Difficulty concentrating while studying for a test, negative thoughts of failing, sweating or experiencing a stomachache during the test or wandering thoughts are signs of test anxiety (

“ I think a lot of test anxiety comes from lack of preparation and a resulting lack of confidence about the exam,” Dr. Laura Overstreet, chairperson of psychology and sociology department on NE Campus, said.

In addition, she said if students go over the material as mere memorization and do not understand the concepts, they are more likely to experience anxiety during a test.

Students need to take notes, not just copy the notes given to them, as it will help solidify memory and organize thoughts. Negative self-talk is the second biggest obstacle for success followed by trying to predict failure, Overstreet said.

Some guidelines to help ease the anxiety are preparation, which includes good nutrition, good sleep and good planning. Right before the test, the student should get his mind off it, take a deep breath, not listen to negative comments and practice positive self-talk.

During the test, he should look over it, reading the directions carefully; skip the hard questions and go back to them at the end. The best thing to do when anxiety returns is to practice relaxation techniques
(University of Florida Counseling Center).

Relaxation techniques vary, but what is sure to work best is breathing exercises.

Dr. Charles Overstreet, professor of psychology on South Campus, gives his students who suffer from test anxiety a relaxation response practice called the 6-second Quieting Reflex.

It consists of three quick steps and helps set up a conditioned stimulus to relax.

The first is a physical cue—dropping and relaxing the shoulders and taking two deep breaths using the abdominal muscles. The imagery cue follows—imagining that tension is flowing down and out of the bottoms of the feet like draining a pop bottle. The last is a verbal cue—repeating the phrase “relaxed mind, calmed body.”

“ A great deal of test anxiety comes from inadequate time allowed to prepare,” he said. “I encourage students to schedule times to study the whole test material.”

He also said to avoid over-reviewing the test because in many cases students change the right answers to wrong ones trying to take a second guess.

Dr. Annette Nolte, professor of psychology and sociology on NW Campus, said positive thinking is a big factor in overcoming test anxiety. She said so many times negative thoughts prevent people from succeeding, and some people do not know they are negative thinkers.

Nolte said preparation, good nutrition and rest play a part in memory retention.

“ Positive thinking plus preparation equal success,” she said.

Lori Fowler, associate professor of psychology on NE Campus, said her first advice for students is to study the material well. All TCC campuses have services that offer help, such as the Testing Center and District
Disability Support Services.

“ I have offered and used these tools myself,” she said.

According to the University of North Texas Dallas Campus Test Taking and Managing Test Anxiety booklet, people remember 20 percent of what people hear, 50 percent of what they hear and see, 70 percent of what they see, hear and do and 90 percent of what they hear, see, do and tell.

The booklet covers information on managing test anxiety; it provides a test taking self-assessment and offers tips for before, during and after a test. In addition, it tells what to look for in multiple choice, true-false and essay questions and provides advice on reducing test anxiety by using mental visualization. The booklet’s Web site is

“ The truth is, one exam is just a small part of the journey through education … breathe deeply, answer easier items first to gain confidence, ignore people finishing early and tell yourself you’ll do your best,” Laura Overstreet said.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian