Anxiety Help: 4 Tips for Dealing with Test Anxiety

The scenario is all too familiar. That well-known and insufferable feeling of horror and nausea rises in your throat as the test is handed out. You keep trying to remind yourself that you did your best to prepare. You participated in class, you did all of your homework, you even studied and re-studied last night knowing that this moment was approaching. You’ve prepared as much as humanly possible, but as soon as the fresh white test is laid before you all of the information has drained from your brain and your mind goes blank. Your palms start to sweat as you visualize getting your test back with a big red F. Stop right there, you have test anxiety!

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Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety and has the potential to make your school career miserable and ineffective. Just like other types of anxiety, test anxiety can begin a vicious cycle. By focusing on the bad things that could happen, the feelings of anxiety become stronger. Now that your head is full of distracting thoughts and fears, the possibility of doing badly on the test is a definite reality.

If this sounds like you, you may have test anxiety and the best way to combat it is to recognize it and alter your thought process immediately. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before a big test but if your nervousness is so intense that it interferes with your concentration or performance than help is needed.

What can you do to curb your anxiety? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before, during and after your exam that may help you overcome your fears when the pressure is on.

1. Test Preparation - First of all, test preparation is necessary and can help combat your performance anxiety. By developing good study habits and strategies beforehand you won’t feel like you’ve been taken off guard on test day. Good study habits include managing your time wisely, organizing information to be learned early on, reviewing past performances on tests to improve and learn from experience, and not allowing yourself to get overwhelmed. Allow your stress to remind you to study well in advance of a test. Not even the most intense amount of cramming or studying the night before a test can replace the deeper level of learning that happens over time with regular study.

2. Test Day - Approach the exam with confidence. At any point in time during the test if you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, replace them with realistic positive messages. The power of positive thinking is huge. If you have prepared well, the test can actually be considered a time for you to shine and show how much you have really learned. It is also important to approach the test well rested and well fed. By getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating healthy before a test, you can help keep your mind working at its best.

3. During the Test - It’s important to stay relaxed and positive during the test. Try saying reaffirming positive statements in your head like, “I can do this”. Don’t worry about other students finishing the test before you. Feel free to take all the time you need so that you can do your best. Find a comfortable position where you feel the most relaxed, read the directions carefully, and if you go blank skip the question and come back to it as to not waste any time. If you do find yourself experiencing those same feelings of anxiety relax, take deep breaths, pause and use positive reinforcement. It is important to acknowledge to yourself that you are doing your best.

4. After the Test - Once you complete your test and turn it in, it is best to accept the job that you have done and focus your efforts on your next test. Once your test is returned to you look through the exam thoroughly to see what questions were missed or what you could have done better. It’s also important to keep your mistakes in perspective. By learning to accept small failures and mistakes and consider them learning opportunities rather than failures you will learn to keep situations in your life in perspective which is a very valuable skill.

Effective test taking takes time and practice, and learning to overcome test anxiety is no different.
Test anxiety won't just go away overnight, but facing and dealing with your test anxiety will help you learn how to manage your stress, which is a valuable skill to possess throughout the rest of your life.

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