Test Anxiety: How to Deal with Test Anxiety and Actually Do Better on Tests

Tests can be stressful even for the most prepared students, and, unfortunately, test anxiety can actually have a negative impact on your performance. Well, fear not: the following test anxiety busters can help you get through your next test with much greater ease—and likely more success!

First, identify why you are feeling anxious…

  • Did you prepare or study efficiently?
  • Are your family expectations or personal expectations more of a source of distress rather than encouragement?
  • Are you over-extending yourself? Are you involved in too many activities?
  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Are you studying daily or just right before a test?

Study for the test, but if you find yourself becoming confused, unable to concentrate or unable to absorb the material, take a break. Try taking a walk in the fresh air or a “power nap.” Space out your studying over a few days or weeks and continually review class material. Don’t try to learn everything the night before. Remember that studying the material you are to be tested on is by far the most effective way to combat test anxiety.

Study Smarter
Being organized with your studies can help you keep from pulling all-nighters to get all of your studying in and blowing the test because you’re exhausted (see above). How do you study ‘smarter’? Make a list of the most important things you need to learn, in order of importance, and hit the items at the top of the list first. (That way, if you run out of time, you’re mostly covered.) Make a list of all the work you have to do, estimate how much time each item will take, and compare that with the amount of hours you have available; this will tell you if you can carefully read (or just skim), how many times you can afford to revise papers, and other ways to pace yourself so you can get everything done. Oh, and turn off the TV until your tests are behind you.

Get Enough Sleep
Getting 6 hours of less can put you into what’s called a sleep deficit, or lack of sufficient sleep. Having a sleep deficiency can actually make you less sharp mentally, which can negatively affect your performance on tests, even if you spent those missed hours of sleep studying. So it’s very important for you to get all of your studying done so you can get a good night of sleep before your big day.

Taking the Test

Read the directions slowly and carefully. If you do not understand the directions, ask your teacher. Skim through the test so that you have a good idea about how to pace yourself. Write down important formulas, facts, definition and/or keywords in the margin first so you don’t worry about forgetting them. Do the simple questions first to help you build your confidence for the harder questions. Don’t worry about how fast other people finish their test; just concentrate on your own test.

Visualize Success
A great way to build your confidence as you fall asleep each night is to visualize yourself taking the tests and doing wonderfully. Detailed visualizations can help you feel like you’re really experiencing something, and visualizing yourself doing well is a way to ‘practice’ success in a way that can actually help you perform better. (Being confident as you take your exams can keep you from choking because of the stress.) Visualizations can also help you to remember facts: you can create detailed scenarios that involve the information you’re trying to remember, and this can help cement the facts in your memory.

Eat Before the Test

Not only does your body require proper nourishment to function as it should, so does your brain! Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, as these only increase feelings of anxiety.

Stay Calm
Because stress can impair your memory, it’s important to stay calm before and during tests. While that’s easier said than done, there are several stress relief techniques that can help you calm down quickly whenever you feel overwhelmed. For example, breathing exercises have been shown by research to reduce test anxiety, and can be extremely effective in helping you relax and reverse your stress response in a variety of situations: just take deep breaths, expanding your belly on the inhale, and let the stress come out with your exhales.

Keep the Situation in Perspective

Remember that, no matter how important the test is, it will not be the end of the world if you do not do as well on it as you would like. Just do your best. You can’t do more than that.


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