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Academic Coaching and Study Skills

Blog Post # 4: How Can I Manage Testing Anxiety? (Part I)

How Can I Manage Testing Anxiety? (Part I)

By: Chelsey Finney

Can you recall a time when you felt overwhelmed by the thought of not doing well on an exam, even before writing it? What about a moment when you compared your own abilities to a friend’s who was in the same class as you? After sitting down and opening an exam, do you freeze if you don’t know how to answer the first question? Don’t worry, you are not alone!

How is anxiety experienced?

It is estimated that anywhere from 20% to 35% of all post-secondary students suffer from various degrees of testing anxiety (McDonald, 2001). Test-taking anxiety can increase depending on the circumstances that arise at school and/or home (Quinn and Peters, 2017). Such circumstances can be:

  • Working to financially support oneself
  • Having a demanding course-load
  • Scheduling conflicts
  • Sense of low competency in your ability to learn and balance stress-levels
  • An inability to regulate one’s emotions
  • Language barriers between student and presentation of material in program of study

Anxiety can manifest in various ways (Anxiety Canada, 2007-2018, p.3), including: 

  • Behaviourally as fidgeting, pacing, and or the avoidance of studying.
  • Cognitively as the inability to concentrate, with negative self-talk, and/or freezing up during assessments.
  • Emotionally as feeling overwhelmed, fearful, disappointment, angry, sad, depressed or helpless.
  • Physiologically as nausea, headaches / migraines, feeling overly warm or cold, dry mouth, dizziness, shallow/ quick breathing.

By now, you may be wondering how testing anxiety can be tackled. Researchers have identified three popular strategies that have been proven to be very helpful for students: Study Skills Training, Systematic Desensitization, and Cognitive Reframing.

Strategies for dealing with anxiety: Study Skills Training

This is a behavioural modification approach which can help you improve your organization, processing, and retrieval of course material studied previously. Study skills training, at the core, is a tool box of strategies students acquire in order to learn more effectively. Here are techniques you can explore.

By using these methods, you will see improvements in:

  • Managing your time
  • How you plan short-term goals
  • Reading/summarizing key arguments as you understand them
  • Active listening
  • Memorization

You will also be able to identify which personal habits hinder your ability to reach study goals (Motevalli, Roslan, Sulaiman, Hamzah, Hassan, and Garmjani, 2013).

For more information on how The Study Skills Training can benefit you personally, book an appointment with one of the Academic Success Centre’s Coaches today.



Anxiety Canada. (n.d.). [Work-book]. Test Anxiety. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from   

McDonald, A. S. (2001). The Prevalence and Effects of Test Anxiety in School Children. Educational Psychology, 21(1).

Motevalli, S., Roslan, S. B., Sulaiman, T., Hamzah2, S. G., Hassan, N. C., & Garmjani, M. G. (2013). New Study Skills Training Intervention for Students Who Suffer from Test     Anxiety. Asian Social Science, 9(7), 85-96.

Quinn, B. L., and Peters, A. (2017). Strategies to Reduce Nursing Student Test Anxiety: A Literature Review. Journal of Nursing Education, 56(3), 145-151.

5 Study Skills And Techniques For Students Who Want To Succeed In College. (2018, November 28). Retrieved from