Test stress

Sometimes I'm so nervous I can't remember anything I studied. I can never remember what I know. It's so frustrating!

Does the word “test” make your stomach drop? Test stress is very common, but there are ways to beat it so you can arrive at test day feeling prepared, relaxed, and calm.

How it feels

Test stress usually starts as a nagging worry. You might put off studying because you don’t want to face it, or you might think negative thoughts, like: “I’m going to fail this test,” or “If I fail the test, I’m a failure.” On test day, or during the test, you might experience some of the following:

  • Pounding, racing heart
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Mind going blank

When the test is over, you might worry that you failed it, and dread receiving your mark. Take this quiz to find out if you have test stress.

Put it in perspective

  • Studying and preparing for the test are the best ways to decrease test stress. Click for study and test taking tips.
  • Study as best you can and try to relax. Take some deep breaths if you feel tense. Try to breathe slowly, in and out (here’s how). You can do this anytime-when you’re studying, before a test or even during a test.
  • Try to remember that tests are only one part of how you will be graded—most teachers also use essays, presentations, and group projects to grade students.
  • If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts like “I never do well on tests” or “I’m going to fail,” try to replace them with more realistic thoughts, like “I just need to do my best” or “I know I can do this."
  • If you put pressure on yourself to get perfect on your tests, it’s important to know that this just isn’t possible. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay.


If test stress is making you lose sleep, your appetite, or giving you nightmares, try talking to a parent, your teacher, or another adult you trust.

Back to topLast reviewed: September 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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