Testing Anxiety

Testing Anxiety

If you know the feeling of sweaty palms, heart palpitations, or racing thoughts right before (or during) a test – you are not alone! Many people struggle with test anxiety. The good news is that you can develop skills and strategies to overcome testing anxiety.

If you are already in nursing school, head over and join the Nursing School 101 Facebook group! This energetic and supportive community for future nurses shares struggles and celebrates wins together. Nursing students in the group encourage each other as they face the challenges of nursing school, clinical rotations, and tough exams. In the Nursing School 101 group, you’ll find students like you overcoming testing anxiety. 

Consider this. Studies show that 40-60% of students are affected by test anxiety. With test stress impacting half the student population, you’ll likely face test anxiety sometime during your college career. That is why it is important to understand what testing anxiety is and what you can do about it. 

We just released an in-depth video course called “Overcoming Testing Anxietythat has everything you need to know about testing anxiety for nursing school and beyond. In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of what you might see in the course, including: 

  • What is testing anxiety?
  • Are there testing accommodations for test anxiety?
  • How to deal with testing anxiety

If you’re ready to stop stressing over tests and start feeling confident about your next exam, let’s go!

What is testing anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Fear or apprehension around taking an exam is called test anxiety. 

Feeling nervous about a test is normal, even helpful. How the body responds to stress can improve performance. Stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline, increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Feeling stressed about a test may improve alertness and decrease exhaustion. However, extreme or overwhelming feelings of anxiety are not healthy or helpful. 

Some signs of test anxiety students experience  include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating

In extreme cases, test anxiety can trigger panic attacks. 

If you already suffer from a known underlying medical condition that causes anxiety, some situations, such as an important test, could cause more mental strain. In that case, you should reach out to your school advisor, counselor, or student services representative to see if you qualify for special accommodations or modifications. 

How do you know if you have testing anxiety?

Since the symptoms vary greatly, from mild nervousness to full-blown panic, you might wonder – how do you know if you have testing anxiety?

Feelings of anxiety are subjective, meaning that only you know how the experience feels. If you suffer from the symptoms listed, or others such as trouble sleeping because you worry about an upcoming test, then you likely have some form of test anxiety. If the sensations interfere with your daily functioning, you should consult a medical professional for further evaluation.

You can take an online quiz from Mental Health America to gauge your level of anxiety here. Again, if you are concerned, share your results with a healthcare provider.

Are there testing accommodations for test anxiety?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that students with mental or physical disabilities get a fair chance to compete with other students and pursue educational opportunities. As a result, testing sites like colleges are required to offer testing accommodations for students who need them. 

Testing accommodations are changes to the regular testing environment and special aids or services that allow students with disabilities to show their true aptitude on tests. Examples of accommodations include: 

  • Extra time for the test 
  • An aide to read the exam questions
  • Fidget toys or comfort items to hold
  • A separate quiet room for testing
  • Alternative projects or presentations instead of tests

Testing centers may also consider other accommodations recommended by a medical professional. To qualify for special testing arrangements, students must get documentation about their condition from their doctor. Next, students should take the information to their school advisor, counselor, or department of disability services to discuss the next steps. 

So what if you don’t have a medical condition? Without documentation, students may not qualify for testing accommodations. Students without a medical condition still suffer from testing anxiety. But don’t worry. You can take several practical steps before and during a test to deal with anxiety.

How To Reduce Testing Anxiety

Before your next exam, try these techniques to deal with testing anxiety.

How To Deal with Test Anxiety Before the Exam:

Practice positive self-talk.

Talk kindly to yourself. Words are powerful, even the silent ones inside your head. Start using positive self-talk to ease test anxiety by reminding yourself how far you have come and how far you will go. Tell yourself that you are capable, that you can succeed, and that you are prepared for the test.

Practice using positive self-talk with daily affirmations. Choose one or two affirmations as a pretest mantra. Come up with a phrase that you can repeat to yourself on the way to the exam and during the test when you need support. 

Visualize your success.

Your thoughts are just as important as your words! Visualize yourself successfully finishing the test. Think about how it will feel. Put positive images in your mind. Play the scene through your mind, from waking up to going to the testing center, from clicking your way through the questions to finishing the exam. Practice this visualization ahead of test day. Soon your mind will  begin to associate the test with positive feelings of confidence and accomplishment. 

Prepare the body as well as the mind.

In addition to preparing your mind for the test, make sure your body is ready too. The evening before your test, go to bed early for a good night’s rest. Avoid last-minute cramming sessions since science shows that the brain will not retain that information well. Start test day with a healthy breakfast of protein and good hydration. Practice stretching and breathing exercises before the test. You can watch videos or listen to brief breathing exercises for test anxiety here.

Study with other nursing students. 

Studying for a test with a group is more effective than studying alone, and you will have more fun! Find others in your class or in groups like the Nursing School 101 online group to study with and compare notes. Being involved with a community of others facing the same stressors will ease your test anxiety. 

The NurseHub Nursing 101 “How to Handle Test Anxiety” Course will be another way to study with other nursing students. It contains exclusive training and content on test anxiety that the team created, especially with students like you in mind! Let the NurseHub nurse experts show you what it takes to brave nursing school exams with prac

How To Deal with Test Anxiety During the Exam

Some students experience test stress only on exam day. Here are a few tips to calm your nerves during the test.

  • Use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions.
  • Sit at the front of the room and face a wall if possible. 
  • Do not look at clocks or timers. If you worry that you might run out of time, set a marker to allow yourself to only look after five questions.
  • Stand and stretch if possible, or shrug your shoulders once an hour to release tightness. Muscle groups can hold tension, which signals your body to remain in a stress response.
  • Sit up straight! Research shows that slouching shoulders and a hunched spine can decrease a student’s persistence and creativity during problem-solving. Good posture is associated with higher self-esteem and positivity.
  • Continue positive self-talk during the test. Use statements like, “It’s okay if I don’t know this answer—I can get the next one.”

These techniques can help you stay in control during a particularly stressful exam. During the test, you can make a conscious effort to relax your mind and body. Although test stress can feel overwhelming, it will pass! By learning and practicing these go-to test-taking skills, you can rise above any negative feelings and succeed.

Next Steps

Hopefully, this post helps relieve stress the next time you prepare for an exam. For even more testing anxiety tips, follow the NurseHub team on Instagram and TikTok

Learn ever more about Overcoming Testing Anxietywith our video course. Be sure to grab this exclusive content for the best tips and tools to overcome your test anxiety.  

Remember, we believe in you! That’s why we are working hard to bring you valuable tools for success. Now, it’s just up to you to believe in yourself. YOU’VE GOT THIS.


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  1. Hello,

    Stress anxiety does affect me during a test. I tend to panic and black out if it makes sense. I struggle to remember and even doubt my self especially when the test is being timed. I hope to use this technique on my next teas test.