How Can I Reduce Math Test Anxiety?

Some of us freeze when taking tests. We seem to do okay working problems until it’s test time. Then the questions look like a foreign language. Here are a few ideas to reduce math test anxiety.

  1. Be sure to use all of the suggestions for studying, like reading a chapter before it is discussed in class, attending class regularly, doing all of the Chapter Review Problems, having a study buddy, etc. If you don’t study well, your test anxiety will not go away.

  2. Make sure you understand which chapters will be included on each test. Several days before the real test, do the Practice Tests found in the text for those chapters that will be covered on the test. Time yourself, so you will have practice doing problems under a time constraint. Do all of the problems before checking your answers. After you have finished all of the questions, check your answers and figure what percent you got correct. If your answers are wrong, look at the solutions on our Web site (Step-by-Step Solutions) or in the printed Student Solutions Manual. Make sure you understand the procedures used to get the correct answer.

  3. As you do the Chapter Review Problems and Practice Tests, circle the problem numbers for the problems you struggle with. Then, before taking the test, redo those problems. Mark the problems you still struggle with; redo them again until you understand every single Chapter Review Problem and Practice Test problem. As a final way of preparing, look over the problems again and remind yourself of ”the common mistakes” to avoid for each type of problem. If you understand how to do every problem correctly, there should be no surprises on the test. Preparing properly is probably the best way to reduce math test anxiety!

  4. Don’t cram for the test. Begin your review several days before the test.

  5. Don’t stay up late the night before the test; instead, just do a quick review the night before the test.

  6. Eat right. Don’t eat too much sugar, because that can make you jittery. If you overeat you will become sleepy; more blood goes to your stomach to help digestion, which means less blood goes to your brain.

  7. During the test, read instructions carefully. For each problem, make sure you answer the question that was asked. Include $ signs and % symbols in your answers, as needed. And include unit titles in your answer (like miles, feet, cars).

  8. Work the problems you know how to do first; skip the problem that gives you trouble and come back to it later (while this is an “attempt” at humor, there will likely be very few problems that are confusing if you prepare properly). By working the problems you are sure of first, you can proceed through the test knowing you have not missed any problems. And you will be less likely to run out of time by spending too much time on one of those tricky problems.

  9. Make sure your answers seem reasonable. If, for example, you are trying to calculate a monthly car payment and you get an answer of $3,815, something is probably wrong. And use common sense. For example, if you are multiplying 4.03 × 39.8754, the answer should be approximately 4 × 40, or about 160.

  10. On a multiple choice test, look at all possible answers before making your selection. The most popular “wrong answers” will likely appear as choices.

  11. Keep your work in case your instructor wants to see how you got your answer; you might get partial credit.

  12. If you find yourself getting stressed during the test, put your test and pencil down, sit back and relax, think nice thoughts and just breathe normally until you feel more relaxed. Or ask the instructor if you can leave the room for awhile.

  13. If you don’t do as well on the test as you had hoped, try to figure out what you could have done better.

  14. If you have a history of unusually high test anxiety, ask whether you can take the test at a testing center or have extra time to take the test.