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EFT for Test Anxiety

Dear EFT Community,

In this article, Dr. Cara Gubbins describes her work with students to overcome test anxiety and unlock their full potential.

– EFT Universe


By Cara Gubbins, PhD

This article describes my workshops and my results and includes the tapping sequence and words that I use during EFT sessions with my students.

Although I start with a standard Setup phrase, I don’t use the Basic Recipe anymore, but use a more free-flowing script that addresses many aspects of the thoughts and feelings that can lead to test anxiety. I am so happy to be able to share such a powerful tool with my colleagues and students!

As a biology and student success instructor at a community college in northern California, I am one of several instructors who teach 1-hour student success workshops on topics from note taking to goal setting. One of our most popular workshops is Overcoming Test Anxiety.

In my Overcoming Test Anxiety workshop, I combine education about the physiological basis of test anxiety with a brief EFT session. This combination has yielded very positive results because students can understand why their anxiety occurs and have a tool to manage or even eliminate it. After sharing EFT with over 200 students during the last few years, I have a 95% success rate in reducing or eliminating test anxiety.

At the beginning of the workshop, I ask students to rate their level of test anxiety on a scale from 0 to 10 (the SUD scale). After a brief lecture on the biology of test anxiety that stresses the impact of our thoughts on our body’s physiology and the importance of our perception of stress, I invite students to try an easy new way to address the causes of test anxiety and lower their stress (EFT).  I explain that they should tap where I tap and repeat my words after me.

I begin the EFT session by tapping on the Karate Chop point and saying out loud three times: “Even though I have test anxiety, I still deeply and completely love and accept myself.”  I then tap on the sequence of EFT points outlined below and say one phrase at each point.

EB “Increased heart rate”

SE “Increased breathing rate”

UE “Tension in my body”

UN “Inability to focus”

CH “Butterflies in my stomach”

CB “Nausea”

UA “Shallow breathing”

BN “Hyper alertness”

TH “Decreased thinking ability”

IF “I accept that I get nervous taking tests”

MF “I accept all these symptoms of my body’s stress response”

BF “This is how my body reacts to perceived stress”

KC “My perception of stress determines my stress level in my body”

TofH “Even though I secretly blame someone else, I accept these nervous symptoms in my body”

EB “I am willing to release all of my test anxiety now”

SE “I let go of my perception of tests as stressful”

UE “I release these stress symptoms so that I am calm and centred when taking tests”

UN “Test are just one kind of feedback”

CH “I am okay with myself”

CB “I am intelligent”

UA “I am a successful student”

BN “I am relaxed and confident”

WRIST “Not everything depends on one test”

TH “I retain what I learn”

IF “I easily recall what I learn”

MF “I enjoy my life on my way to fulfilling my dreams”

BF “I learn every day”

KC “I can shift my perspective”

TofH  “I am a relaxed, confident test-taker”

I have taught this workshop to hundreds of students and 95% of them report that their test anxiety symptoms decrease or disappear. Students in my workshops averaged 7 (range 1-10) at the beginning of the workshop and 3 (range 0-9) at the end of the workshop. Most students end the workshop with lower ratings on the SUD scale, but about 1 in 20 will stay the same. (I’ve never had a student whose score went up.)

One of my goals in this workshop is to give students tools to stop test anxiety in the future in the event that prevention doesn’t completely work. One student had tried everything (except medication) to help her test anxiety, with no results. In one workshop, her level of test anxiety went from a 10 to a 1. Eight months later, her anxiety level is still low and she describes her experience this way:

“Before, I’d walk in the room to take a test and I’d have roaring in my ears and nausea and I’d lose my train of thought with any sounds or movement that anybody else made. My mind was blank.  ow when I walk into the room to take a test, I feel a little apprehensive. I still have some anxiety (it’s like a 2 or 3 now, not the 10 that it was). But as soon as I sit down, I start tapping the points and I feel back connected. During the test, sounds and movement don’t distract me anymore. There’s a peacefulness that comes over me once I start the test. I’m able to focus and recall what I studied. I went from a score of 15 to a score of 72 the first test I took after doing EFT. It’s like night and day. Yesterday I took my first anatomy lab test and I think I got an A. The information just flowed out of me. Now I know I’m going to make it. What this did for me was a gift. Cara was an angel for me.”

Teaching this workshop, I am completely amazed at the power of the mind and the interconnectedness of all our systems–nervous, endocrine, muscular, digestive, and energetic. As a culture, we don’t usually analyze our thoughts, but this workshop has shown me that it is time well spent: A few unconscious thoughts can have a huge impact on our bodies. Changing our thoughts and their effect on our nervous system (whether the fight or flight response gets triggered) can change the way we experience the world dramatically by changing our physiology.

Whereas my students once perceived tests as stressful and threatening, they now see them as an opportunity to demonstrate how much they’ve learned. These small changes in the daily life of a student can have a snowball effect, making the difference between achieving and not achieving academic goals and realizing lifelong dreams.