How to reduce your math anxiety and prepare for your OMPT exam

What is math anxiety?

Do you ever feel nervous or anxious when solving a math problem? Maybe you get sweaty palms, shaky hands, or knots in your stomach? Or perhaps you find it hard to focus, and your thoughts start racing? If so, you might be experiencing math anxiety. But don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Math anxiety is very common from school days to adulthood. It ranges from slight frustration to intense emotional and physical reactions (Ashcraft & Moore, 2009). Richardson and Suinn (1972, p. 551) define math anxiety as:

“A feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations.”

Even brilliant mathematicians like Maryam Mirzakhani and Laurent Schwartz, who won the Fields medal (the highest award in mathematics), have had moments of math anxiety. It’s not about being bad at math. It’s about how you feel about the subject.

Why do people have math anxiety?

Math anxiety has a high sociocultural component. In Western cultures, we often hear comments about mathematics that make us think this subject is only for “privileged minds.” We are repeatedly exposed to negative attitudes toward math from people close to us, like teachers and parents.

Maybe you have had negative past experiences with mathematics (like hearing someone saying you’re not talented in this field or feeling embarrassed by not knowing how to solve an exercise publicly). Likewise, the fact that the answers to math problems are so objective makes people feel more anxious about being wrong. Other studies indicate a neurodevelopmental basis (Young et al., 2012).

What happens when you have math anxiety?

Math anxiety is linked to lower math achievement (Barroso et al., 2021). Individuals who suffer from it are often too focused on what they are experiencing to concentrate on their learning or proving their math proficiency.

Besides, people with high math anxiety are less likely to complete advanced math courses or pursue STEM careers (Choe et al., 2019). This avoidance can also affect everyday situations where math is critical (e.g., managing our personal budgets).

In fact, math anxiety can be literally painful. Lyons and Beilock (2012) found that in people with high math anxiety, the anticipation of doing math already led to increased activity in regions of the brain associated with threat detection and pain.

But there is good news! There are ways to deal with math anxiety. Learn more about math anxiety in this video. Keep reading to learn tips to overcome math anxiety and prepare for your OMPT exam.

Why do people get so anxious about math? - Orly Rubinsten (YouTube video)

Tips to overcome your math anxiety

Remember that you don’t need to be a genius to learn math. You might worry about not being a “math person” or not intelligent enough to do mathematics. But your brain is flexible! You can develop your knowledge and your self-confidence as you practice. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the way to grow.

A growth mindset is essential to improving your performance and well-being. This mindset consists of believing your talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others (Dweck, 2016).

Blackwell et al. (2007) showed that students who think about this organ as a muscle that can be trained obtain better results. It helps to be aware of this attitude. So, when you think or say something like, “I’m just no good at math,” try substituting this thought with statements like, “I can get better if I keep trying.”

Stereotypes play a big part in math anxiety. Women report it more often than men (Hart & Ganley, 2019). We often hear that men are better than women in this field. This idea is fake, so let’s get rid of it.

Start practicing early

To overcome math anxiety, it’s important to start practicing. It’s the only way to improve in this subject. Often, the belief that you’re not good in math holds you back from trying, and this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s time to break this cycle!

Starting early gives you more control over the situation. You can take your time to process all the information and get enough rest before the exam. A good night’s sleep can really work wonders!

Avoid using shortcuts

People who feel anxious about math often choose passive strategies like re-reading a textbook and leafing through math worked-out solutions (Jenifer et al., 2022). Although this can look like progress, you need to actively engage with the math content to learn.

These activities are tricky because they can give us the fake sensation of learning the material when we only recognize the exercises. We might think, “Oh, I know that.” But when we face the same question during an exam without an answer… that is another story. These passive study strategies can lead us to freeze during the test.

Try to solve the questions yourself, as during the exam day. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and fill in your knowledge gaps on time. The study techniques that are perceived as more effortful, like solving problems, will give you better results and will be perceived as easier with a bit of practice. It’s like training for a marathon – effort pays off!


Breathing techniques can help you calm down whether you are practicing at home or during the exam, reducing the tension you feel. Remember, your anxious thoughts don’t determine how well-prepared you are, so don’t let them get in your way!

Meditation can also be really helpful in managing your anxiety. By taking a step back and observing your thoughts, you might be able to put them in perspective and gain mental clarity. Finally, why not take a walk before the exam? It’s an excellent way to feel more relaxed and energized.

Celebrate progress, big or small

Every tiny step forward is a victory. Celebrate it! Did you finish a challenging problem? Did you complete a practice test? You can feel proud for trying, and remember to take a break and treat yourself. Acknowledging your progress boosts confidence and makes the math adventure much more enjoyable.

Ensure everything is ready for your OMPT exam

Practice materials

We develop practice materials to help you be well-prepared for your math admission exam. They enable you to learn at your own pace. Our tool gives constructive and supportive feedback at every step, guiding you toward the correct solution.

On average, students who spend time with the learning materials receive a 76% score on their first attempt, instead of the 40% of students who don’t practice.

Mock exams

We offer mock exams that can help you prepare for the OMPT exam. They are designed to give you a breakdown of each topic and detailed answer sheets. These tests will help you see areas where you excel and those that need improvement.

Mock exams are a great way to be familiar with the real exam format. This will help you feel more confident and better prepared for the big day, when you can focus on showcasing your math skills.

Here you can learn more about our practice materials and mock exams.

Don’t hesitate to visit our help center if you have questions. We’re here to support you throughout your math admission journey!

Good luck!


  • Ashcraft, M. H., & Moore, A. M. (2009). Mathematics anxiety and the affective drop in performance. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 27(3), 197-205.
  • Barroso, C., Ganley, C. M., McGraw, A. L., Geer, E. A., Hart, S. A., & Daucourt, M. C. (2021). A meta-analysis of the relation between math anxiety and math achievement. Psychological Bulletin, 147(2), 134.
  • Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263.
  • Choe, K. W., Jenifer, J. B., Rozek, C. S., Berman, M. G., & Beilock, S. L. (2019). Calculated avoidance: Math anxiety predicts math avoidance in effort-based decision-making. Science advances, 5(11), eaay1062.
  • Dweck, C. (2016). What having a “growth mindset” actually means. Harvard Business Review, 13, 213-226.
  • Hart, S. A., & Ganley, C. M. (2019). The nature of math anxiety in adults: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of numerical cognition, 5(2), 122.
  • Jenifer, J. B., Rozek, C. S., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2022). Effort (less) exam preparation: Math anxiety predicts the avoidance of effortful study strategies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
  • Lyons, I. M., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). When math hurts: math anxiety predicts pain network activation in anticipation of doing math. PloS one, 7(10), e48076.
  • Richardson, F. C., & Suinn, R. M. (1972). The mathematics anxiety rating scale: psychometric data. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19(6), 551.
  • Young, C. B., Wu, S. S., & Menon, V. (2012). The neurodevelopmental basis of math anxiety. Psychological science, 23(5), 492-501.

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