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I am a social-work graduate student with test anxiety. Do you have any suggestions to help me make it through finals? I would appreciate any ideas you might have.


One thing you might want to do, preferably well enough in advance of your exam period (two to three weeks is great, longer if possible), is start listening to a relaxing guided-imagery audio. We just came out with one for Self-Confidence & Peak Performance

, which would be good for this, but any decent relaxation tape would be fine.

Each time you listen, try go somewhere in your house (or even car or yard) that's especially designated as a place to relax, not study. Listen to the tape there, placing your hands over your belly or heart or in some other specially configured way, so that you develop an association between relaxing to the tape and having your hands like that. Do this once or twice a day.

After about a week, your clever neurons should have made the connection. So now, when you take a practice test, or quiz yourself during study times, you can place your hands that way, breathe deeply, and evoke an image from the tape that you find particularly soothing or evocative.

If you get flooded with anxiety anyway, stop studying, go to your place in the house, and listen to the tape again. Then take it from the top.

Gradually, you can progress from giving yourself a practice exam to having a friend or family member give it to you, to going to a class room to take a practice exam, to doing the actual deed. This should desensitize you to anxiety if you give it enough lead time.

And keep in mind, there are medications that can help you with your panic. Believe it or not, some students take beta blockers on a one-time-per-test basis, and they seem to remove the physical symptoms of being anxious. And the removal of the physical symptoms seems to make people mentally less anxious. It's kind of an odd, you're-not-scared-because-you're-not-running sort of effect.

Good luck. Stay with it. You can do this.