Test Anxiety is a combination of physical symptoms and emotional reactions that interfere with your ability to prepare for and perform well on tests.


  • Start early and use active study strategies.
  • Re-reading lecture notes or a textbook is NOT enough.


  • Eat something nutritious to help with focus and attention. Bring water to stay hydrated.
  • Exercise will also help with focus and attention.
  • Play calming or familiar music to help you relax.
  • Arrive to test early enough to find a seat that will help, not hinder your focus (up front? near a window?)
  • Avoid talking to classmates if it raises your anxiety.
  • Bring ear plugs if you get distracted by noise


Calm Your Body

  • Breathe deeply from your belly
  • Tighten various muscle groups, and then relax them
  • Stand and stretch or shrug shoulders
  • Close your eyes and count to ten

Calm Your Emotions and Thoughts

  • Focus only on present moment to help you stay grounded
    • EX: “I am sitting at a desk in Carroll Hall. It is 2:00 pm on Tuesday.”
  • Avoid thoughts about the future or past
    • EX: “I need an A on this test in order to improve my g.p.a.”
    • EX: “I should have done more practice problems.”
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
    • “It’s okay if I can’t answer this question – I can answer another question instead.”

Download PDF: Tackling Test Anxiety

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you create a balanced approach to succeeding at Carolina. Our friendly staff is ready to help – drop by or make an appointment!

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