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3 Ways to Reduce Exam Anxiety of Your Students

by K. Sata Sathasivan, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, on May 6, 2021 6:30:10 AM

Anxiety management can be grouped into three “P”s: Preparation, Practice, and Personal health and habits.

The experience of preparing for and taking an exam can be stressful for many students. It is important that students remain calm and relaxed during the exam to do their best. I have seen a few students pass out during or just before the exam due to test anxiety, dehydration, and other stresses. It is easier said than done, but there are simple ways to train your students to reduce exam stress and anxiety.

While it may sound simple for teachers to expect all students to be prepared with knowledge, study skills, and test-taking skills, it is not uncommon for many students to feel underprepared. Here are some tips to help students to come well prepared with reduced anxiety to do well in the exams.

Preparation

Developing effective study skills will build confidence in students to assimilate content, understand concepts, and apply them. Many students rely on the old habits of what worked for them in high school and try the same study methods without realizing the rigor and high expectations of college. Encourage your students to reach out to professors, teaching assistants, and learning centers to learn effective study habits. Studying smarter and not harder will make the learning process more enjoyable and efficient for the students. We can help them learn the big picture, know the bottom line of what they need to know and understand how things are connected rather than teaching them in a linear or sequential manner focused on memorization only. 

Practice

Learning about the exam format and practicing the sample exams or questions in the back of the book certainly helps. Practice exams can be given in various formats, including a simple PDF posted in your Learning Management System. Alternatively, classroom response systems such as Squarecap can be used for practice exams with explanations to the answers.  Such practice helps students to reduce anxiety. Squarecap offers options for providing feedback to students on the questions they missed and allows them to test themselves repeatedly by turning off the answer key and any explanations. Using Squarecap during class for testing understanding also helps the students learn about the gaps in their knowledge and gives them an opportunity to fill those gaps before taking the exam.

Personal Health and Habits

Getting a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing techniques certainly help. Visualization techniques of being in a calm and happy place may help students feel relaxed instead of looking at other students and getting more stressed out. Studying small chunks of information every day is much better for long-term memory than cramming overnight for exams. Developing a positive mindset, reducing the fear of failure, and overcoming a tendency for perfectionism would certainly help to focus more on learning and succeeding in the exam. Proper time management during the exam by following a steady pace and prioritizing easy questions first allows for more time to work on difficult questions. 

Consider sharing some of these ideas with your students to help encourage healthy habits to reduce exam anxiety. Download our student handout "Effective Ways to Reduce Exam Anxiety" which includes practical tips for reducing anxiety and stress by focusing on the three "P's". If you'd like to know more about using Squarecap with your students,  schedule a demo to learn more.