Tips to manage test anxiety during finals week

Savannah Hopkinson
BYU students Ellie Clements and Samantha Stinnett attend a test preparation workshop in the Academic Success Center led by peer coach Amanda Wood. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Managing anxiety as a college student

With finals week right around the corner, here are some tips and techniques to manage the test anxiety uniting all college students this time of year.  

  1. Study, study, study

Shorter and more frequent study sessions in the weeks leading up to a test exercise the memory muscle and strengthen it more effectively than last-minute cramming. While cramming can benefit the short-term memory, the long-term memory is going to be most resourceful during test time.  

  1. Learn test-taking strategies

BYU’s Academic Success Center suggests using the following strategies during a difficult test:

  • Scan the entire test before starting.
  • Mark difficult questions, skip them, and return back when ready — a different question might shed light on the answer.
  • Read through the questions and answers carefully.
  • Cover multiple-choice answer options when reading the question to use long-term memory from studying.
  1. Relax and breathe

BYU early childhood education major Amanda Wood works as a peer coach at the university’s Academic Success Center. She teaches students in workshops and one-on-one appointments about a handful of topics, including managing test anxiety and preparing for tests.

Wood said academic success involves more than just being familiar with the tested material.

“When we take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, we can take care of our test,” Wood said. “It helps us to have our brain most ready to use the information that we’ve learned.”

Students can prepare for an exam by getting a full night’s sleep, eating a proper breakfast and thinking positively. BYU Counseling and Psychological Services recommends students relax and use breathing techniques to remain calm and focused.

  1. Make the most out of testing center lines

Bring flashcards or a study sheet to review while waiting in line at the testing center during finals week. Bringing too much studying material and trying to cram can intensify one’s anxiety. But just standing in line without doing anything can also increase anxiety.

And beat the crowds at the testing center by taking exams early in the week or in the morning.

  1. Remember finals don’t define worth

BYU dance major Veronica Harvey works with the Academic Success Center, as well. Her reminder to students is to think beyond the scope of the tests and remember why they are at BYU in the first place.  

“One test does not define your whole academic career or your college life,” Harvey said. “Your time here at BYU is not determined by a single test. You were accepted to BYU, which means you’re smart, you belong here and you’re needed here. Next semester could be completely different from how you ended finals.”

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