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One of the most important factors in improving test grades is learning to manage your test stress levels. This week’s question is about just that:

It doesn’t matter how I study. When it comes to test time, I’m always a complete mess. You always talk about how that’s a major problem. That just kind of stresses me out more. My hands get clammy. My heart starts racing. I know it’s causing problems. I’m not doing bad in school but my tests scores are holding me back. I’ve always seen myself as just a bad test taker. How can I change that?

Test stress can be caused by a number of different problems. The biggest challenge is figuring out where that test stress is coming from.

If you can figure out where that stress is coming from then you can usually eliminate it with a few simple changes. Of course, you’ll still have some stress about tests but over time, after eliminating the major causes, you should see that stress reduce.

One thing to consider is whether or not that stress belongs there. If you haven’t learned the effective ways to prepare for a test then you should probably read 101 School Hacks For Better Grades & A Better Life. This blog has tons of idea to help you prepare for tests effectively. If you’re not preparing for tests effectively then you should be stressed.

If your test stress is coming from one of these other factors then you can solve your problem by working on them:

High Stress Studying

I know you mentioned it doesn’t matter how you study. This may not apply to you.

Many students make their studying routine high stress by making it long. To keep the study session going, many students think about the test. The test is the motivating factor in increasing their study time. Every time the student uses that excuse they increase the stresses related to that test. (If you study for a test 10-20 hours then, whether you say it or not, your brain will think it’s seriously important.)

This is usually rather simple to fix. Reduce the study routine dramatically and don’t worry too much about the test. This blog can help do that.

High Stress Everything

Some people lean towards anxiety in virtually every situation. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, they’ll find a way to stress themselves out about it. If you’re high stress about everything then, of course, something like a test would be worthy of plenty of stress. This is a rather large problem that there are plenty of potential solutions to. (You probably want to look for other sources to help.)

I would say I generally lean towards this category. My personal solution is to embrace my worrying to the point that all my big concerns tend to mellow out into a sea of mild concerns. For example, I may have a big test coming up but I also have a weird mole that looks like it should get checked out, I also think my eyes are getting worse, I also think my neighbor doesn’t like… The test? No… I’m not stressed about that. I got way better things to worry about. The diversity of problems makes it impossible to put too much emphasis on a single one. (I have no illusions that this is a great solution. It just works for me now.)

In the long term, stress is likely a health concern. If this is your issue then you may even consider talking to a professional about it.

Low Confidence

Some students struggle at tests because they’re just stuck thinking they’re bad at tests. Yes. This definitely sounds like the asker of this question. Confidence is one of the most powerful test taking tools available. When a person has accepted that they’re just a bad test taker, they are way more likely to get stressed out for a test. That increased stress just reduces their score and helps solidify their belief in their bad ability to study. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

The good news about this problem is that you usually only need to break the cycle of low confidence once to change. (You may fall in and out of slumps but for the most part, you’ll be able to get out in a few tests.)

Most of the time, you can gain confidence by just faking it. Pretend that you’re a good test taker.

Instant Test Stress Reduction

During a test, remember that your test score is already decided. You either know the information that you need to know or you do not. Sure, it might bother you to know if you screwed up a test but that’s like getting upset that it’s raining outside. Your being upset isn’t going to change anything. You being upset is completely irrelevant to anything useful. In fact, being stressed during a test will only stress you out more.

There are times when stress can be productive. During a test is not one of those times.

When you enter the classroom, accept that your test score has already been decided. Now you just get to find out what it is.

There is no one size fits all solution to a problem as complicated as stress. The truth is, eventually, it comes back to the way you decide to look at the situation. As long as test taking is a big deal in your mind, you’re going to get stressed out about it. If that stress is reducing the grades you’re getting then you are probably overestimating the importance of those tests.

Your life likely has plenty of more important things for you to be stressing about. Stress is a tool that can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. You only can use it so much. Whenever you use it for something that isn’t important, you’re wasting it.

The body produces stress hormones to help. If a tiger suddenly jumped out from your monitor, your body would produce huge amounts of stress hormones. Those hormones would help you run like crazy. If you suddenly remember you have a big test tomorrow, your hormones will kick in and you’ll suddenly give up anything you’re doing to study.

These hormones can be used consciously and unconsciously. They can be used consciously in the same way you can control your focus. If you focus on how you’re bad at taking tests, or how the tests are hard, or you always forget everything then your body will get a huge load of stress hormones. Those hormones will be used unproductively.

If instead you stressed out only when it would actually help, there are countless opportunities to pleasantly surprise yourself.

Control your focus and you can, to a huge extent, control your stress.

Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a night? That’s what this blog is all about. Check out the archives, follow along, and read the books in the sidebar to learn it all.

Q/A – How To Handle Test Stress

How You Will Get Straight-A’s – Impress Teachers – And Having People Beg You To Tutor Them (And It Will Be Easier Than What You’re Doing Now)

Ever met a dope that still scored higher than you?

I know I did. And, believe it or not, it’s more common than you think.

Despite what you have been told, hard-work and intelligence are not the keys to good grades. In a study by Karpicke of Purdue University and Roediger, III of Washington University showed the right strategy can get you remembering 2.35 things for every minute of focused studying you’re doing now.

If you study wrong, you could be plummeting your grade by 67% (or more if you’re using a worse than normal strategy.) And many of the wrong strategies are one’s you’ve been taught to do your whole life!

Once I discovered this for myself, my whole world changed. I got C’s and D’s in highschool. In college, I was near the top of my class for my Engineering degree. Freshman year in college, I knew I had to spread the word.

I worked with one student (D.L, I’ll call him for soon-to-be obvious reasons.) He was going back to college after getting out of prison on a drug charge. He was retaking his English class – with the same teacher. A couple weeks into the semester, the professor pulled him aside and asked him, “how the hell some prison teacher could make him that much better – that fast?”

It wasn’t the teacher.

It makes sense the teacher wondered that. The changes that can take place when you change strategies are astounding.

Every minute you study ineffectively is wasted. Your grades may go up a little but it’s a losing battle. Effective studying skyrockets your scores faster – giving you more time to:

  • Learn more than you ever imagined
  • Improve your health, well-being, and non-academic life
  • Enjoy your time the way you want to

My book How To Study Happier teaches this strategy that let students memorize 2.35 things for every one they would normally memorize. Plus, it gives you dozens of other strategies and stories that can put you on the path to academic enjoyment – instead of just surviving. (And remember, no matter where you are in your journey, it just gets harder from here. Be prepared!)

All my books come with a 100% money-back guarantee – just send an email and my people will refund it – no questions asked.

I want to help you. Put it on me to prove it. Please give me that chance.

Last thing, inflation is making it hard for me to keep prices where they are. Server costs are going up and prices on my books may go up as soon as next week (as of the day of writing this.) So please act now. When these prices go up, there will be no exceptions made.

Right now, click the link, buy now, fill in the boxes, and get an instant download for you to have when you’re ready- while the price is holding.

Get your copy of my book about How To Get Happier Straight A’s.

It only costs $4.99 (and if these strategies don’t work like magic like it has for thousands of other students then you can get a full refund.)

Click Here To Buy Your Copy


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4 thoughts on “Q/A – How To Handle Test Stress

  • May 20, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  • February 8, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    This helped me more than ever. Knowing that life will not end if the test is due to be taken and I am not ready, I can ALWAYS take another one. Points add up in the end! One test will not kill you if you fail or get a few points off, and it definitely won’t end the beautiful life you have left to live!

  • February 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    If your in high school or in any grade really, tests will always be there. It’s important to study, but it’s also important to balance studying and stress. When studying for a major tests, when your sitting down studying for hours, it’s important to take breaks in-between. For studying in general there are several methods you can use to help you remember the topic. For instance, some people use flashcards, re-reading notes and then later listening to it, but remember procrastinating is not a good study habit to develop! It might help you for a certain quiz or test, but when remembering it for how-ever many years, you will not remember. But this blog talks about stress, so know this; if you studied a lot then you should know that you will do good, it’s about self-esteem really! Just remember and think this, “Your better and smarter than the person next to you. You will do good if not great!”

  • February 6, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I 100% recommend the ‘I have so many issues to worry about instead of the test’ method.
    It works for me. Ever since my life has come almost completely undone, I’m unable to stress before tests. It’s also good to remember that you can always take a make-up one, and that whatever grade you get, it’s not the end of the world. You will take many more tests, and face other difficult challenges in life. It’s not that serious!


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