Mallory Welsh, LCSW

Whether you are currently a student or in a career that requires exams to add a certification or advancement in your specific career, taking exams can be an incredible stressor. For some people, it can create a form of anxiety that can be very overwhelming. I can remember not too long ago taking an exam for my career, the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) exam and I can relate to the stress and anxiety it can cause.

There can be a lot of pressure placed on individuals when taking these exams. Below is a simple guide on how to reduce to anxiety you may be feeling for an upcoming exam.

  • Reflect on Your Accomplishments. One way to reduce test anxiety is to reflect on your past accomplishments. Reminding yourself of all that you have completed thus far in your professional/academic life can certainly help reduce the anxiety.
  • Ask for Help. If you find yourself struggling with a topic on the exam, it is okay to ask for help, whether if that is a peer or even investing in a tutor.
  • Diet/Sleep. It is very important to make sure you allow yourself at least 6-8 hours of sleep the night before and to have a healthy breakfast the morning of the exam, such as some protein like eggs or bacon. Both sleep and diet can have a significant impact on your brain and comprehension during the exam.
  • Appropriate Clothing. Yes, even deciding on what clothes to wear for the exam will help you. Perhaps wearing clothing you feel the most comfortable in and bringing clothing that can be layered, such as a sweater, as some testing centers may vary in temperatures.
  • Separate Yourself from the Test. It can be easy for your exams and your identity to become intertwined with each other. As challenging as it may be, try to separate yourself from the exam and your self-worth. Whether you pass or do not pass the exam, it does not reflect on you as a person.
  • Practice Breathing Techniques. If you do find yourself feeling anxious or stressed during the actual exam, practice some deep breathing techniques (in your nose for 6, out your mouth for 4 seconds). These breathing techniques can help you re-center yourself during the exam.
  • Self-Talk. Practicing self-talk during the exam can also be a way to decrease the anxiety or stress you may be feeling. Instead of saying, “I’m so stupid, I don’t know this answer,” attempt to say, “I am smart and confident, and it is okay if I don’t know the answer to this particular question.” Very few people can actually get 100% on exams, so allowing yourself to move toward not knowing every answer can too help reduce your stress.
  • Visualization. Using the technique of visualizing passing the exam can also decrease anxiety. If your exam allows you to have some paper to write notes down, writing the word “pass” on it can help keep both your focus and positivity.
  • Celebrate! Whether you pass or do not pass the exam, plan something to celebrate this big accomplishment for simply just putting in all the time and energy to take this exam.

Preparing for a big exam can be incredibly stressful. While this list provided nine different approaches, try to focus on the one that you think will allow you to best practice reducing your anxiety on your big test day.

If you are currently struggling with anxiety in your life, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.