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The 5 Stages of Test Anxiety and How to Overcome Them

It’s completely normal to feel nervous before taking a test. The pressure to do well coupled with all the strenuous preparation can take a toll. According to the Princeton Review, some students even find tests to be a bit more stressful and before you know it, full-on anxiety kicks in. This is usually characterized by racing or blank thoughts, faster heart beats, headaches, or excessive sweating. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), test anxiety may be caused by ‘a fear of failure, lack of adequate prep time, or bad experiences taking tests in the past.’


If you or a classmate is going through any, or all of these symptoms, it is advised that you take the time to assess how severe your anxiety level is on each stage and follow these tips.


The Expectation Stage

This is square one. This is the point when your teacher announces that exams are coming up. At first, you might be scared, but don’t be!

From being the stage of expectations, spin it into being the stage of changing mindset. Focus on the things you have to do to get a really good grade on a test. Divide your time into segments depending on what you need to study, organize your notes, review your previous exams if available, write practice questions, and make sure you cover all required topics.


The Denial Stage

Taking the time to study every day is the key to a healthy academic life, free from cramming and procrastination. As much as every student vows not to procrastinate, they still fall prey to some tried-and-tested delaying tactics- binge-watching full seasons in one night, curating IG feeds, or decorating study tables endlessly. But hey, that’s not the end of it all.

If you ever get lazy, the secret is not rocket science- take a short break! Walk around, eat a snack, or even take a power nap but be mindful of your time. If you can’t kick the bouts of laziness completely, going on breaks is pretty much like scheduling a healthy amount of time for procrastination! You can’t deny yourself the pleasure of idleness but you must not deny your responsibilities, too!


The “I can’t do this anymore” Stage

Expect to go through this phase if you did not prepare during the first two stages. One can’t stress it enough that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. But don’t worry, all those hours spent inside the classroom will eventually come to you. Inhale courage, exhale fear. Try to remember everything you’ve heard and absorbed in class through mnemonics, acronyms, or visual hints instead of memorizing endless paragraphs.


The Day

Today’s the big day! If you have prepared well, great! Otherwise, expect sweaty palms, a faster heart beat, and the feeling that you have already forgotten everything you learned last night. Don’t press the panic button! To overcome test anxiety, relax and focus your energy on the test questions. Ignore the ticking clock and all other distractions because you’ve already come this far. Even though you feel you have not studied enough, you still studied something (and that’s not too bad at this point). Be confident of your answers but dedicate some time to review every item before handing your paper in. A second look at the questions can jog your memory.


The Acceptance Stage

For a young achiever like yourself, failing in anything might be akin to a zombie apocalypse where you are unarmed to fight the zombies off. But trust us, failure plays a big role in success. Do not let fear of failure paralyze you. Don’t commit the mistake of merely stuffing your exam in your bag or locker. Review your mistakes and try to analyze where you stumbled. Seek a teacher’s help if something is unclear. Go ask a classmate who got those items correct. Remember, there are more exams to prepare for, more bouts of anxiety to overcome, and ultimately, more chances to do better next time. Keep your chin up!


Test anxiety is a real issue but by being equipped with the right tools and the right perspective, you are on your way to becoming a better student, ready to ace any test!



  1. 10 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety. (2018). princetonreview.com. Retrieved 11 February 2018, from https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/test-anxiety
  2. Test Anxiety | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (2018). adaa.org. Retrieved 11 February 2018, from https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety#