- Test Anxiety
- What is Anxiety?
- Symptoms of Test Anxiety
- What Causes Test Anxiety?
- Arousal and Anxiety
- «Am I Psyched Out?»
- Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety
- Additional Coping Strategies
- Test Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, & How to Cope
- What Is Test Anxiety?
- Test Anxiety Symptoms
- 5 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety
- 1. Study Smarter & Study in Ways That Work Best for You
- 2. Challenge Perfectionistic Thoughts
- 3. Visualize Success
- 4. Don’t Sacrifice Sleep
- 5. Practice Stress Management Techniques
- Test Anxiety Treatment
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Psychiatric Medication
- Speaking With Your Instructor or Your School
- How to Get Help
- Final Thoughts on Test Anxiety
- Managing Test Anxiety: How to Cope and Perform Better
- Symptoms of Test Anxiety
- Action Steps
- What Makes Anxiety Happen?
- What's Performance Anxiety?
- Why Do We Take Tests?
- Who Gets Test Anxiety?
- What Can I Do?
- 10 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety
- What is Test Anxiety?
- Test Anxiety Tips
- 1. Be prepared.
- 2. Get a good night’s sleep.
- 3. Fuel up.
- 4. Get to class—or the testing site—early
- 5. Have a positive mental attitude.
- 6. Read carefully.
- 7. Just start.
- 8. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing.
- 9. Watch the clock
- 10. Focus on calm breathing and positive thoughts
- Stuck on homework?
Many people experience some nervousness or apprehension before, during, or after an exam. This kind of anxiety can be a powerful motivator. However, some people experience test-related anxiety to such a degree that it can lead to poor performance.
During exams, do you…
- Feel you “go blank?”
- Become frustrated?
- Get distracted?
- Feel overwhelmed?
- Find yourself thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m stupid?”
- Feel the room is closing in on you?
- Feel your heart racing or find it difficult to breathe?
- Have distracting thoughts of failure?
- Suddenly “know” the answers after finishing the test?
- Score lower than you do on sample tests, homework, or papers?
If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, you may be experiencing test anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural human response to a threatening situation. Anxiety is a form of the “fight-or-flight” response—the body and mind become aroused and alert to prepare for attack or to escape from a threat.
Test anxiety describes responses specific to evaluative situations—situations in which you are being observed or evaluated by others.
The primary “threat” in these situations is the possibility of failure and loss of esteem.
Depending on the intensity of the anxiety response, the emotional, behavioral and cognitive components of anxiety can interfere with your ability to perform during the test.
If you experience test anxiety, you are not alone—approximately 20% of college students experience symptoms of test anxiety.
Test anxiety typically occurs:
- In the presence of a difficult or challenging situation,
- When you believe that you are inadequate or incapable of meeting the challenge, and
- When you fear the consequences of possible failure.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
Listed below are some of the common symptoms you may experience if you have test anxiety.
Physical: Headaches, nausea or diarrhea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive sweating, shaking body parts, shortness of breath, a sense of “butterflies” in the stomach, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth
Emotional: Excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, depression, uncontrollable crying or laughing, feelings of helplessness
Behavioral: Fidgeting, pacing, chewing on pens or pencils, “drumming” on a desk, faking illness or making other excuses to avoid the test, difficulty eating or sleeping before the test, substance abuse
Cognitive: Racing thoughts, “going blank,” difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of dread or panic, comparing yourself to others, difficulty organizing your thoughts
What Causes Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety can develop for a number of reasons. First, there may be a prior negative experience with test taking that serves as the activating event.
People who have experienced, or have a fear of, “blanking out” on tests or the inability to perform in testing situations can develop anticipatory anxiety. Worrying about how anxiety will affect you can be as debilitating as the anxiety itself.
This kind of anxiety can build as the testing situation approaches and interfere with your ability to prepare adequately.
Poor time management, poor study habits, and lack of organization can also lead to feeling overwhelmed.
People who cram at the last minute will feel less confident about the material covered than those who have been able to follow a structured plan for studying.
Being able to anticipate what the exam will cover and knowing the information has been covered during study sessions can help you enter the testing situation with a more positive attitude.
Lastly, lack of confidence, fear of failure, and other negative thought processes may also contribute to test anxiety. The pressure to perform well on exams is a great motivator unless it is so extreme that it becomes irrational.
Perfectionism and feelings of unworthiness can create unreasonable goals in testing situations. When your self-esteem is too closely tied to the outcome of any one academic task, the results can be devastating.
In these situations, you may actually be spending more time focusing on the negative consequences of failure than preparing to succeed.
Arousal and Anxiety
In order to perform well in a challenging situation, you must be psychologically and physically alert. You certainly won’t perform well on an exam or in an event if you are nearly asleep! This level of “alertness” is also called arousal. Some degree of arousal is essential for optimal performance. Increasing arousal is the idea behind “psyching up.
” In many cases, psyching up enhances performance. The problem is that when the intensity of arousal gets too high, we often begin to feel nervous and tense and experience anxiety. At this level, anxiety becomes distracting and performance declines—we get “psyched out.
” For optimal performance, you need to keep your arousal at an intermediate level—psyched up, but not psyched out.
«Am I Psyched Out?»
So, how do you know when you are “up” enough, but not too much, for an exam?
When psyched up, you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand and performance will feel natural. When psyched out and anxiety takes over, you may experience:
- Distracting thoughts of failure
- Inability to pick out important information
- Interpretation of the results of physical arousal (e.g. tension, heart rate) as signs of fear
- Excessive muscle tension
- Desire to avoid or escape the situation
- Feelings of wanting to give up
Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety
There are several things you can do to make test anxiety more manageable:
Prepare: Develop good study habits, spread studying over several days and ask for additional help when needed. Eat good foods, get adequate rest and exercise to build energy. Attend class regularly and complete all assignments in a timely manner. Make and take practice tests.
Keep a Positive Attitude: Develop reasonable expectations. Do not allow your grades to become dependent on the outcome of one exam. Avoid negative and irrational thoughts about catastrophic results. Set up a system of rewards for dedicated studying and good performance. Encourage yourself.
Use Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing exercises, imagery, visualization and muscle relaxation techniques can help increase focus and concentration.
Learn Good Test-taking Skills: Arrive on time to the test. Don’t arrive too early and get distracted by others talking negatively—anxiety is contagious! Don’t arrive late either as rushing will only increase your anxiety.
Don’t panic if you can’t remember something right away—answer questions you know well first, and then go back to the more difficult ones. Read directions carefully before you begin. Try not to spend too much time on one question. Read each question carefully, look for keywords, and don't make assumptions about what the question might be.
Pace yourself. Answer all questions (unless you are penalized for wrong answers). Reserve 10% of your test time for review.
Additional Coping Strategies
Be Healthy: If you are physically and emotionally exhausted, your body and mind are less able to tolerate stress and anxiety. You can improve your resistance to anxiety by getting adequate rest, eating appropriately, and taking care of your physical health.
Be Prepared: Practice…practice…practice…study… study… study. This may sound a bit repetitive, but nothing can help reduce anxiety confidence.
In fact, if you over-prepare a bit, your responses become more automatic, and your performance will be less affected by anxiety. Preparation for an exam may include improving your study, time management, and test-taking skills.
Also, make sure you have everything you may need for the actual exam (required ID’s, documents, calculator, etc.).
Practice the Performance: The time limits of an exam, testing conditions, and requirements are all stimuli that increase your level of arousal and add to your experience of anxiety.
If you practice under similar conditions, you’ll become less sensitive to these stimuli. Work through a practice exam (or two!) under the same time and exam constraints that will exist when you take the test.
For conditions you cannot reproduce, create them in your min—close your eyes and “see” the test environment.
Regulate Your Arousal Level: In cases of anxiety, the goal is to lower your level of arousal. Some of the most effective ways involve altering your physical responses.
Consider some of the following techniques:
Deep Breathing: When anxious, we often take shallow breaths. We feel we aren’t getting enough air and get more anxious. If you focus on breathing deeply and slowly, this cycle is interrupted and the body and mind begin to relax.
To learn to breathe deeply, place your hand on your stomach and inhale in a way that makes your abdomen expand. As you exhale, your abdomen should move inward. Practice taking 10-15 slow deep breaths in a row, 2-3 times per da—training your body to breathe deeply and relax.
Then, during a stressful situation, focus on taking 2-3 deep breaths and your body will relax.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: We also tense our muscles when we’re anxious. Consciously relaxing your muscles will help your body and mind relax.
Practice muscle relaxation during deep breathing by focusing on a particular muscle group (e.g. shoulders). Alternately tense and relax the muscle—focus on releasing all of the tension in the muscle.
Adding muscle relaxation to deep breathing in a stressful situation can be very helpful.
Practice Visualization: Close your eyes and create a detailed mental picture of yourself doing the best you can on the test. Visualize it over and over again with all of your senses (What do you see? How does it feel? What do you hear?). Seeing yourself already achieving your goal makes your brain believe that attaining that goal is possible.
Reduce Distractions: Distractions are additional stimuli that increase arousal. Explore ways to reduce distractions in your immediate environment (e.g. use noise reduction headphones, wear a sweater so you aren’t distracted by being cold, inform the test proctor of distracting noises).
Control Fear: The underlying source of test anxiety is the fear of failure. Pay attention to what you are thinking and saying to yourself in anxious situations. This self-talk will ly reflect an expectation of or fear of failure. You can begin to control this fear or change the expectation by changing your self-talk.
Practice the following strategies:
Positive Self-talk: Purposefully filling your mind with positive statements about yourself and your abilities can offset or crowd-out the negative self-talk.
Even if you don’t believe the positives, say them anyway—“I’m ready…I can do this…Do it!” Determine the most important positive messages for yourself by writing down your 3-4 most common negative thoughts (e.g. “I can’t do this”).
Next, write down the opposite for each statement (“I can do this”). Repeat the positives to yourself daily for at least two weeks and again just before and during the test.
On-task Self-talk: Counter distractions and help yourself focus on the task at hand by telling yourself what to do—talk yourself through the task step-by-step and tell yourself you’re succeeding! Thinking about past mistakes or future consequences is not helpful. Keep your mind focused on the present—one thing at a time!
Gaining Perspective: Sometimes the negative thoughts people have in stressful situations focus on potentially drastic consequences of failure.
In most cases, these drastic consequences are much more severe than the reality of the situatio—this is called catastrophizing. Focusing on such catastrophic consequences increases anxiety and interferes with performance.
It is important to recognize that one mistake does not equal failure and that one bad performance does not mean you’re worthless.
Test Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, & How to Cope
Test anxiety refers to the nervousness or distress people face before a crucial performance. The anxiety may begin a few days before the test, but it tends to peak just before and during the test itself. These anxiety symptoms can be both physical and emotional, and they can certainly interfere with your ability to succeed in the designated task.1
What Is Test Anxiety?
Most people feel nervous before a crucial exam or performance. Test anxiety, however, often represents a more extreme response to nervousness.
In some cases, this anxiety may jeopardize your ability to focus, relax, and think critically during the test itself. Unfortunately, such interferences may result in a less-than-ideal performance.
As a result, you may not do as well as you want, reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy of your own anxiety.
“Test anxiety occurs on a continuum, and it isn’t a psychological diagnosis. There is a sweet spot of moderate anxiety that facilitates doing well—a little bit of nerves put you in the zone for optimal performance,” says Morgan M. Grotewiel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Webster University. “Too much anxiety, however, decreases performance due to its adverse effects.”
Test Anxiety Symptoms
Test anxiety symptoms include a mix of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. They often coincide with other forms of anxiety, and these symptoms can affect people of all backgrounds and skill levels. In many ways, test anxiety mimics performance anxiety or stage fright. If you feel pressure to perform well, your anxiety may stunt your ability to succeed.
Common physical symptoms of testing anxiety include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Headaches or migraines
- Muscle tension
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling hot
Potential cognitive symptoms of testing anxiety could include:
- Persistently comparing yourself to others
- Blanking out (feeling as if you can’t remember any important information)
- Negative thoughts about yourself
- Flashbacks or ruminating thoughts about past performances
- Dread about the consequences of failure
- Pressured thoughts related to “needing to study more” or “study harder”
Potential emotional symptoms of testing anxiety may include:
- Irritation or anger towards oneself (or the test administrator)
- Excessive fear
- Disappointment in oneself
5 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety
Although test anxiety can feel frustrating, practicing different relaxation and cognitive strategies can help you feel less nervous. Commit to trying new ways to cope with your test anxiety. Practicing them often will help them become more second-nature in your routine.
If you’re dealing with test anxiety, consider trying these five tips:
1. Study Smarter & Study in Ways That Work Best for You
Everyone studies differently, but rather than focus on how your peers study, try to focus on doing more of what works for you. Try to prioritize active, rather than passive, engagement. This may mean creating study guides and flashcards. It also may include practicing “teaching” the information aloud to understand it better.3
Grotewiel recommends, “Most students would benefit from studying smarter: schedule in study time you would homework; join a study group; and practice effective study habits, the SQ3R method of reading.”
2. Challenge Perfectionistic Thoughts
The goal isn’t about achieving perfection, and having that goal will only lead to burnout and frustration. It’s okay to make mistakes. Remind yourself that perfectionism isn’t everything before, during, and after the test.
3. Visualize Success
Positively visualizing yourself succeeding can improve how you think and feel in the moments before a test.4 Outcome visualization refers to visualizing the end goal (getting an excellent grade on the test). Process visualization refers to imaging yourself actually taking the test and getting to your end goal.
People prefer different types of visualization, but it can be helpful to spend a few minutes before your exam imagining yourself feeling relaxed and succeeding.
4. Don’t Sacrifice Sleep
Many people spend the night before a test cramming in information. But poor sleep can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional well-being. Furthermore, good sleep can help solidify memory and concentration, both of which are essential for a key performance.5
5. Practice Stress Management Techniques
It’s important to manage your anxiety before it escalates. If you don’t, test anxiety will ly continue to affect you. Try to make sure that you practice self-care and relaxation regularly- get enough sleep, eat a nutritious diet, connect with social support, and take frequent breaks as you study.
Grotewiel says, “In-the-moment anxiety may be reduced with cognitive-behavioral strategies, including de-catastrophizing, self-soothing, positive self-talk, grounding, and visualizing success.”
Test Anxiety Treatment
Practicing various self-help strategies and implementing various distress tolerance skills can significantly decrease your anxiety. But if your anxiety continues to feel debilitating- or if you notice certain symptoms worsening- you may benefit from seeking professional help.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an evidence-based therapeutic modality designed to help people understand and, subsequently, reduce their anxiety symptoms.
A CBT therapist can support you in identifying specific triggers. They can also teach you new ways to reframe automatic thoughts into more realistic, constructive ones. Finally, CBT often integrates themes of mindfulness, acceptance, and self-compassion, all of which can help you feel more empowered when working through your anxiety.
SSRIs or anti-anxiety medications can help you feel less anxious before tests. These medications can also help with co-occurring anxiety or depression symptoms. It’s worth consulting with your primary care physician or psychiatrist for an evaluation.
Keep in mind that medication alone won’t “cure” anxiety. In fact, most healthcare providers will only consider medication for test anxiety after an individual has been engaged in regular therapy.
Speaking With Your Instructor or Your School
Teachers are very familiar with the nuances of test anxiety. They want to see their students do well and feel confident in their classes. If you are struggling, reach out. Let them know what’s going on- they might have specific suggestions or be able to make certain accommodations for you.
How to Get Help
Getting help for test anxiety starts with first recognizing the need for help. Remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence! If this is a new issue, it may be worthwhile to first address the problem by speaking with your instructor or school.
But if this is a more persistent, global concern (or if you’ve had test anxiety for many years), you might benefit from speaking with a therapist first. To begin your search, look for an anxiety therapist through a qualified, professional directory.
Then, when meeting with potential candidates, it can be helpful to ask the following:
- What kind of experience do you have in treating test or performance anxiety?
- What kind of results should I expect from our work?
- How often will we meet?
Final Thoughts on Test Anxiety
Test anxiety can be frustrating, but it can be manageable and treatable. In addition, learning new skills and implementing them into your routine can make a tremendous difference in how you feel.
Furthermore, if you always feel nervous before an important exam or performance, reaching out for professional guidance can help. A qualified therapist can provide you with support and practical resources for coping with this anxiety.
Managing Test Anxiety: How to Cope and Perform Better
Most people get nervous before they take an important test, but some people experience an intense fear or worry known as test anxiety. Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety, because there is pressure to do well in a specific situation. People can experience test anxiety for a number of reasons.
They may fear failure and the uncertainty of the future if they do poorly on an examination. They may have procrastinated due to this fear and feel overwhelmed by cramming for a test at the last minute. They may also have experienced poor test performance in the past and worry about the incident repeating.
All of this stress over the test produces the body’s “fight or flight” response. Your body releases adrenaline, and the energy used to do good thinking gets diverted into being on high alert. Our brains prepare for the worst, and it becomes all too difficult to imagine doing well and to answer questions.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
Symptoms of test anxiety can be observed in your thoughts, emotions, and body. If you’ve experienced these symptoms while taking an exam, you may suffer from test anxiety.2
Cognitive Symptoms – racing thoughts, self-comparison to others, difficulty concentrating, blanking out, negative thoughts of past performances
Emotional Symptoms – fear, anger, feeling helpless, guilt, shame, disappointment
Physical Symptoms – nausea, racing heart, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, dry mouth, tense muscles
Sometimes people experiencing intense test anxiety are at increased risk of having a panic attack.
If you’ve experienced panic attacks before and are worried about having one during an upcoming test, consider working with a counselor to help you learn to better manage anxiety.
If you experience intense panic the day of a test, you can also ask a test examiner if there is an option to have the test canceled. Some standardized examinations allow you to cancel your score, but not all do.
Ask for Help – Never hesitate to ask for help in managing test anxiety. Teachers, professors, and test consultants can provide valuable information to help you feel prepared.
If you have a learning disability, don’t hesitate to ask for the appropriate test accommodations. Counselors and other mental health professionals can help you challenge negative thinking as you prepare and for the day of the test.
The less isolated you feel in this challenge, the more ly you are to overcome it.
Prepare and Practice – Many people don’t begin to prepare for a test in adequate time because the fear of failure is overwhelming to them. Give yourself permission to make mistakes as you prepare for the exam. As the date gets closer, consider organizing a practice test to simulate what you should expect on the test day.
Ask Friends for Stories –Most people have a story about doing poorly on an exam or how they worked to do better. Hearing stories of other people’s resilience can help provide motivation but also help you challenge catastrophic thinking and remember that people are more than their test scores.
Challenge Negative Thoughts – People with test anxiety tend to assume the worst about an upcoming exam, so take some time to examine and challenge those thoughts.
Watch out for thoughts with words “always” and “never,” because they are not usually accurate.
For example, if the thought is, “I always fail on tests,” then consider replacing it with a thought , “I’ve taken solid steps towards performing well this time around.”
Practice Self-Care – Test anxiety is ly to be lower if your overall anxiety is lower. Getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, and exercising are all helpful strategies for managing stress.
Consider how building a personal wellness plan leading up to a test date can help you feel more in control of anxiety.
Discipline builds discipline, so healthy habits are ly to build motivation to help you prepare for an exam.
Managing test anxiety starts one day at a time. If you’re taking care of yourself, thinking positively, and allowing yourself to make mistakes along the way, then you are ly to feel more in control when you show up to take a test. Consider today how you can gain back control of your future and perform well on an upcoming test.
What Makes Anxiety Happen?
Well, because we can't outlaw tests, we might as well figure out how to ease test anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling a person gets when he or she expects something stressful to happen.
When you're under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger, when you're running away from your older brother! Adrenaline causes the physical symptoms, such as sweating, a pounding heart, and fast breathing. These symptoms can be mild or intense.
Focusing on the bad things that could happen can make a kid feel more worried.
A kid might think, «What if I forget everything I know?» or «What if the test is too hard?» Too many thoughts these don't leave much room in your mind to concentrate on remembering the answers to the test questions.
People with test anxiety can also feel stressed out by the physical reaction and think things «What if I throw up?» or «Oh no, my hands are shaking.»
These thoughts can get the person even more upset, making the anxiety even stronger. Now, the person feels worse and is even more distracted and unable to concentrate.
What's Performance Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a type of anxiety called performance anxiety. Performance anxiety is when a person feels worried about how they will perform on a specific task, especially when they think it's really important. For instance, you might feel performance anxiety when you're trying out for the school band or for the basketball team.
When you're taking a test or about to have some sort of performance, you might feel «butterflies,» a stomachache, or a tension headache. Some people might feel shaky, sweaty, or feel their heart beating quickly as they wait for the test to be given out. A student with really strong performance anxiety may even feel he or she might pass out or throw up.
Sound familiar? You're not alone. Ask other people and you'll find that just about all people — adults and kids — feel some anxiety before a test. In fact, a small dose of anxiety can be helpful, keeping you sharp and focused. But when your symptoms take over so that you can't function or when you're so anxious that you feel sick, you might not be able to do your best.
Why Do We Take Tests?
If teachers know that students get stressed out about tests, why do they still give them? Believe it or not, both teachers and students benefit from tests. Tests measure how well students are learning the skills and information their teachers have been teaching them and teachers learn if they need to present information in a way that is better for students to understand.
And tests are a part of life — from the driving test you'll take one day to the test you'll take if you decide you want to be a doctor.
Who Gets Test Anxiety?
Anyone can get test anxiety, but someone who really wants to do well might be more ly to feel this way. This is called being a perfectionist (say: per-FEK-shuh-nist). Kids who worry a lot also might feel anxious at test time. Perfectionists and worriers find it hard to accept mistakes they make or to get less than a perfect score. This creates more pressure for them.
As we mentioned before, not being prepared for a test (duh!) can cause test anxiety. Kids who don't get enough sleep also can be more ly to have test anxiety.
What Can I Do?
You might be reading this article and saying, «Hey, that sounds just me!» If so, we're glad you recognize that this happens to you. Now you can start taking steps to lessen your test anxiety.
Here are some ways to do that:
Ask for help. Talk to your mom or dad, your teacher, or your school guidance counselor. Just talking to someone about test anxiety can make you feel better. Describe what happens to you when you're taking a test and these people can help you figure out some solutions. For instance, learning study skills can boost your test-day confidence.
Be prepared. Pay attention in class. Do your homework. Study for the test. On test day, you're more ly to feel you know the material.
Expect the best. Once you have prepared, think positively. Say to yourself, «I studied and I'm ready to do my best.»
Block bad thoughts. Watch out for any negative messages you might be sending yourself about the test («I'm no good at taking tests» or «I'm going to freak out if I get a bad grade»). These thoughts can make anxiety worse and make it harder for you to do well on the test.
Accept mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Be more forgiving of your own mistakes, especially if you prepared for the test and set out to do your best.
Take care of yourself. You'll feel your best if you get enough playtime, sleep, and eat nutritious food. This is important all the time, but be extra sure you get all three the day before a test.
Breathe. OK, so you already know how to breathe. But did you know that breathing exercises can help calm you down? (Just try not to take in too much air because it might make you feel dizzy.
) Here's how to do it: Inhale (breathe in) slowly for four counts and deeply through your nose, and then exhale (breathe out) slowly through your mouth.
Do this two to four times, and you just might breathe easier the next time you're taking a test!
10 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been studying hard for your chemistry midterm, but when you walk into your exam, your mind goes blank. As you sit down to start your test, you notice your sweaty palms and a pit in your stomach.
If these classic signs of test anxiety sound familiar, your grades and test scores may not reflect your true abilities. Learn ways to manage test anxiety before and during a stressful test.
What is Test Anxiety?
While it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before a test, some students find test anxiety debilitating. Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread can combine with physical symptoms a fast heartbeat, headache, or nausea. Whether it’s the ACT, an AP exam, or an important history final, test anxiety has the power to derail weeks and months of hard work.
Test Anxiety Tips
According to the ADAA, causes of test anxiety may include a fear of failure, lack of adequate prep time, or bad experiences taking tests in the past. You're not alone! Here's what you can do to stay calm in the days leading up to and during your test.
1. Be prepared.
Yes, this seems obvious, but it bears repeating. If you feel confident that you’ve prepped thoroughly, you’ll feel more confident walking into the test. Need help reviewing tough concepts or question types? The test prep experts at The Princeton Review can provide that extra boost you need to feel cool and collected.
2. Get a good night’s sleep.
Cramming is never the answer, and pulling an all-nighter can exacerbate your nerves. Having adequate rest (9–10 hours per night) is ly to be more beneficial than rereading a text until dawn (But if you ARE up late studying and have a question, our on-demand tutors are there for you.)
3. Fuel up.
Eat a nutritious breakfast before the test and pack smart snacks for ongoing energy. Look for foods that offer a steady stream of nutrients, rather than a sugar high followed by a crash.
4. Get to class—or the testing site—early
Feeling rushed will only amp up the anxiety. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before and set the alarm, so you can get out the door on time.
5. Have a positive mental attitude .
Bring a picture of your happy place or come up with a morale-boosting mantra “I can do this” or “I worked hard and deserve this.” Peek at your picture or recite your mantra, right before the test begins.
6. Read carefully.
Read the directions thoroughly and read all answers before making a choice or starting the essay. There is nothing worse than putting time into a question and realizing you are not solving for x, or the essay is off target. Slowing down can help you stay focused.
7. Just start.
The blank page can maximize your anxiety. After you’ve read the directions, dive right in by making an outline for an essay answer. Or, find some questions you can ace to build up your confidence and momentum. You can always go back and change things later if needed, but a few quick answers can get the ball rolling.
Read More: 5 Signs You Need a Tutor
8. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing.
Everyone else is scribbling away? Ack! What do they know that you don’t? It doesn’t matter. Pay attention to your own test and pace, and forget about the other students in the room.
9. Watch the clock
Realizing that time is almost up and there are lots of test questions left can make it hard to do anything useful in those final minutes. Stay on pace by scoping out the whole test before getting started. Mentally allocate how much time you’ll spend on each section. If there’s time to recheck, even better.
10. Focus on calm breathing and positive thoughts
Deep breathing can slow down a beating heart or a racing mind, so practice these techniques at home. The very act of concentrating on breathing and thinking can biometrically alter those anxious feelings.
Sometimes just remembering that some test-taking anxiety is a normal part of school can help make it easier to handle. If you need a confidence boost, try a session with an online tutor. From PhDs and Ivy Leaguers to doctors and teachers, our tutors are experts in their fields, and they know how to keep your anxiety at bay.
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