How to Handle Test Day Nerves


Exams often tend to be synonymous with stress and nerves. While a “slight case of nerves” will likely always be a part of any test-taker’s experience, being overly nervous can affect exam performance in a negative way, affecting memory and concentration, causing “blank-outs”, and creating other distractions during the exam.

Here are 10 ways to help calm your nerves before the exam:

  1. Study

    This should be a no-brainer, but we’ll say it anyway. Don’t go into the exam unprepared. Everyone has to put in the study time in order to crush these exams. No exceptions!

  2. Positive thinking

    Clear your mind of worries and “what-ifs”. Get yourself in the winning mindset before test day. You’ll be surprised how much positive thinking can help your performance.

  3. Prepare your bag the night before

    It’s best to prepare what you need for test day the night before, so that you aren’t scrambling the morning of the exam. Do you have your ID? Address of the test center? Directions (if neccessary)? Think of what you may need to bring and make sure you have it ready to go.

  4. Get plenty of sleep

    Do not - we repeat - do NOT stay up late cramming the night before the exam. It will do more harm than good.
    Trust us. A lack of sleep carries with it a number of negative symptoms including memory problems, diminished critical thinking skills, as well as anxiety. Review some notes for a short amount of time and then get to bed.

  5. Take a hot aromatherapy shower

    Studies have shown that aromatherapy is a great way to combat stress and nerves. Try some essential oils or shower “bombs” to wind down and relax.

  6. Eat a hearty breakfast/lunch

    Your brain needs plenty of fuel to function effectively. Make sure that you have a healthy meal before the exam. Be sure to avoid sugary food, which can cause your blood sugar to peak and then drop, or caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee, which can increase anxiety.

  7. Review your cheat sheet

    While some people perform best by going straight to the exam without any last minute review, others feel the need to look over study material one last time before the test. Rather than shuffling through piles of notes and flashcards, run through your streamlined “cheat sheet” that you made for yourself in order to quickly see the few items you may need to review the morning of.

  8. Arrive to the test center early

    There’s no worse feeling than being late for an exam. Make sure to leave ample time to get to the testing center, park, get settled, check in, etc. Always account for possible traffic! You never know when unexpected road work or accidents will slow down your route.

  9. Deep breathing

    Health experts have long recommended deep breathing to reduce feelings of anxiety. Take some deep breaths before entering the exam room, and anytime you start to feel yourself getting nervous.

  10. Focus and trust yourself

    When we get nervous, we tend to doubt ourselves. We begin to question even the most obvious answers. Trust yourself and the knowledge you have gained during the studying process; focus on the question in front of you, take your time, and go with your gut feeling.

For more tips on getting through the ARE, download our free ARE Playbook: a step-by-step guide to pass the ARE faster!