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A recent study shows that writing about your anxieties before a test could help you perform better.

Test-taking anxiety: Study says test-takers who write about anxieties do better –

We all experience some amount of anxiety before a test. This usually goes away once you get the test and your mind starts working. However, sometimes our anxiety can really affect how we perform. And I know that some subjects cause more anxiety than others, namely math.

I have a handout on my course website for my students that has some tips for dealing with test anxiety. In fact it’s good advice for dealing with any stressful situation.

Math Anxiety. Test Taking Skills

Some amount of anxiety before a test is normal. If you are not prepared for a test then the anxiety will be greater.

If you experience anxiety during a test (thoughts freeze, panic sets in, stomach hurts) then briefly close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply and think about something that makes you happy like freshly baked cookies. Tell yourself that you prepared for the test and that you can do it. Look at the problem again and try to remember similar problems from homework. If you must, skip the problem and return to it later.

Generally, know that test questions are not designed to trick you. If you understand the material, then you have the knowledge to do the problem. Not every problem is new there are certain problem types in each chapter, in each section of each chapter, and within each set of directions in a section. As you learn to recognize the various problem types, then the anxiety can diminish. But an honest effort needs to be made at all stages first learning, practice, and preparation for assessment.


  • A positive attitude will help
  • Ask questions; be determined to understand the math. Don’t settle for anything less during instruction. Ask for clear illustrations and or demonstrations
  • Practice regularly, especially when you’re having difficulty.
  • When total understanding escapes you, work with peers that understand the math. You can do the math; sometimes it just takes a different approach for you to understand some of the concepts.
  • Don’t just read over your notes – do the math. Practice the math and make sure you can honestly state that you understand what you are doing.
  • Be persistent and don’t over emphasize the fact that we all make mistakes. Remember, some of the most powerful learning stems from making a mistake.

Maybe people will start to realize that smoking is bad. Check out the Times article here.