Overcoming Test Anxiety: 15 Tips for Mastering Your Next Exam
It’s late in the year and if you are in school, most of you are coming close to finals week. This time of year, with the holidays can be a very stressful time. So, what is test anxiety and how do you know you have it?
What is Test Anxiety?
A lot of people experience nerves, but to some the nerves can be debilitating during tests, exams, and even quizzes. Overthinking, inability to focus, or feelings of doubt combined with physical symptoms like elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and cotton mouth. Whether it's the SAT or ACT, the GRE, or career job exams such as the LSAT, MCAT, CSCS, or BOC. These tips and strategies can help increase the chances of you succeeding.
Now, I know this article is about helping reduce your testing anxiety, but let’s start out with a small test on ourselves!
(0 = Poor, 10 = Great)
1. How would you rate your study skills prior to a test?
2. How would you rate your ability to relax and be in control of yourself during stressful or high-pressure tests?
3.How prepared do you feel going into a test or quiz?
If you averaged 0 – 15 from these 3 questions, take a look at these tips to increase your study habits, self-control, and preparedness!
If you averaged 16 – 30 from these 3 questions, Great! You’re on your way to quality test taking with zero to little stress!
BEFORE YOUR TEST
1. Study More! It’s okay to over study for your test. The leading cause of anxiety is when students don’t study enough. The more times you recall information, the pathways to memory expand. Preparation is going to increase our confidence going into a test or quiz, which we know can reduce stress.
2. Visualize the test conditions. Testing environments typically increase anxiety, so if we can see what the testing situation looks like beforehand, we might be able to be a bit more prepared. A classroom quiz will be a lot different than sitting for the LSAT.
3. Breathe! Practice some form of relaxation strategy like deep breathing
or mindfulness before the test day. That way, if you do start to overthink a question or freak out prior to the test, you have practiced ways to reduce those freak-out moments.
4. Practice positive thinking to boost your confidence in times of doubt. (Ex. “I got this” “I’ve studied for this”)
5. Sleep, eat right, and exercise days leading up the test to maximize your potential!
ON TEST DAY
6. Visualize yourself and imagine success. Again, visualize the testing environment, and how you will approach the test.
7. Don’t study! Reviewing is fine, but you won’t learn or retain much more. This could possibly increase anxiety or second guessing during the test.
8. The nervous feeling you have is fine. This is a sensation that your body is telling you that you’re ready, and that the test is important to you. Refer to the relaxation strategies you’ve learned to help control these good nerves.
DURING THE TEST
9. Use your short positive thinking to continue reminding yourself you’ve prepared for the test.
10. Try not to get stuck! Skim through the questions and allow yourself to go in the order that you want to go in. Just mark questions you haven’t finished.
11. Answering another question might open up memory to an answer of another question.
12. Refocus! There might be times that you catch yourself loosing focus or just starting at your paper or computer. Take a quick 10 second mental break and then refocus back on the question.
AFTER THE TEST
13. Relax! You did it! Take a minute to think about the hard work you put in and be proud of your effort.
14. Take down some notes on how you felt and ways you could have improved your testing performance.
15. Think of things that did not work. It is important to recognize tips that worked and didn’t work so you can practice the ones that did. This can also help with future study habits.
Sometimes remembering just one of these tips can help you decrease the chances of test anxiety taking over. If you need a confidence boost, contact Seth for more help to keep your anxiety low.
Davis, M., Eshekman, E. R., & McKay, M. (2008). The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications