Here is some information on test anxiety, including tips on how to prepare and perform to the best of your ability. Adelphi University
Test anxiety is a psychosomatic, or self-induced, condition that involves severe distress before, during, and/or after an exam. Although a little nervousness can help a student perform at their best during an exam (a phenomenon known as “eustress”), test anxiety can become excessive and interfere with the student’s performance.
Symptoms of test anxiety fall into four specific categories; physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral.
- Physical symptoms can include excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea and light-headedness.
- Emotional symptoms can include feelings of fear, helplessness, apprehension and low self-confidence.
- Cognitive symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, excessive worry, negative thoughts and indecisiveness.
- Behavioral symptoms can include changes in eating and sleeping patterns, procrastination and self-medication.
Causes of test anxiety include a history of poor testing outcomes, a lack of preparation, a fear of failure and poor time management skills.
Tips for managing test anxiety:
- Be prepared. 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.
- 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.
- Have a positive mental attitude.
Bring a picture of your happy place, or come up with a morale-boosting mantra like “I can do this” or “I worked hard and I deserve this.” Peek at your picture or recite your mantra, right before the test begins.
- 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.
- 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.
- Study Thoroughly.
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? princetonreview.com can provide that extra boost you need to feel cool and collected.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
Cramming is never the answer, and pulling an all-nighter can exacerbate your nerves. Having adequate rest (seven or more hours per night) is likely to be more beneficial than re-reading a text until dawn.
- Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing.
Everyone else is scribbling away? 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.
- 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 re-check, even better.
- 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 the Learning Center. The Learning Center provides tutoring services as well as skill development which include, but are not limited to, studying, test-taking and time management.