Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
What Is Test Anxiety/Exam stress? Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
Test Anxiety/Exam stress can make it difficult to do well on exams, Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress. Test Anxiety/Exam stress is a combination of physiological over-arousal, tension and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophic, that occur before or during test situations. It is a physiological condition in which people experience extreme stress, anxiety, and discomfort during and/or before taking a test. This anxiety creates significant barriers to learning and performance. Research suggests that high levels of emotional distress have a direct correlation to reduced academic performance and higher overall student drop-out rates. Test anxiety can have broader consequences, negatively affecting a student’s social, emotional and behavioral development, as well as their feelings about themselves and school. Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress.
Test anxiety can also be labeled as anticipatory anxiety, situational anxiety or evaluation anxiety. Some anxiety is normal and often helpful to stay mentally and physically alert. When one experiences too much anxiety, however, it can result in emotional or physical distress, difficulty concentrating, and emotional worry. Inferior performance arises not because of intellectual problems or poor academic preparation, but because testing situations create a sense of threat for those experiencing test anxiety; anxiety resulting from the sense of threat then disrupts attention and memory function. Researchers suggest that between 25 and 40 percent of students experience test anxiety. Students with disabilities and students in gifted educations classes tend to experience high rates of test anxiety. Students who experience test anxiety tend to be easily distracted during a test, experience difficulty with comprehending relatively simple instructions, and have trouble organizing or recalling relevant information. The Ultimate Guide About Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
You paid attention in class, took detailed notes, read every chapter, and even attended extra study sessions after class, so you should do great on that big exam, right? When the test is presented, however, you find yourself so nervous that you blank out the answers to even the easiest questions. If this experience sounds familiar, then you might be suffering from what is known as test anxiety. The Ultimate Guide About Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations.
While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.
A little bit of nervousness can actually be helpful, making you feel mentally alert and ready to tackle the challenges presented in an exam. The Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that there is a link between arousal levels and performance. Essentially, increased arousal levels can help you do better on exams, but only up to a certain point. Once these stress levels cross that line, the excessive anxiety you might be experiencing can actually interfere with test performance. The Ultimate Guide About Reducing Test Anxiety/Exam stress
Excessive fear can make it difficult to concentrate and you might struggle to recall things that you have studied. You might feel like all the information you spent some much time reviewing suddenly seems inaccessible in your mind. You blank out the answers to questions to which you know you know the answers.
This inability to concentrate and recall information then contributes to even more anxiety and stress, which only makes it that much harder to focus your attention on the test.
Understanding Test Anxiety
Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety. In situations where the pressure is on and a good performance counts, people can become so anxious that they are actually unable to do their best.
Other examples of performance anxiety:
A high school basketball player becomes very anxious before a big game. During the game, he is so overwhelmed by this stress that he starts missing even easy shots.
A violin student becomes extremely nervous before a recital. During the performance, she messes up on several key passages and flubs her solo.
While people have the skills and knowledge to do very well in these situations, their excessive anxiety impairs their performance.
The severity of test anxiety can vary considerably from one person to another. Some people might feel like they have “butterflies” in their stomach and while others might find it difficult to concentrate on the exam.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of test anxiety can be physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional. Common physical symptoms include things such as headaches, diarrhea, rapid breathing, and light headedness.
Others might experience a racing heartbeat and a sense of shakiness.
In the most severe cases, people can feel nauseous and short of breath or might even experience a full-blown panic attack.
Test anxiety can also result in behavioral and cognitive symptoms such as negative thinking and difficulty concentrating. People experiencing test anxiety might compare themselves to other students and mistakenly believe that they are the only person suffering from such terrible anxiety. Other symptoms of test anxiety can involve emotions such as a sense of helplessness, fear, anger, and disappointment.
What Are the Symptoms of Test Anxiety? Causes and Ways to Overcome
Many people experience stress or anxiety before an exam. In fact, a little nervousness can actually help you perform your best. However, when this distress becomes so excessive that it actually interferes with performance on an exam, it is known as test anxiety.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety:
The symptoms of test anxiety can vary considerably and range from mild to severe. Some students experience only mild symptoms of test anxiety and are still able to do fairly well on exams.
Other students are nearly incapacitated by their anxiety, performing dismally on tests or even experiencing panic attacks before or during exams.
Physical symptoms of test anxiety include sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, fainting and nausea. Milder cases of test anxiety can cause a sense of “butterflies” in the stomach, while more severe cases can actually cause students to become physically ill.
Cognitive and behavioral symptoms can include fidgeting or outright avoidance of testing situations. In some cases, test anxiety can become so severe that students will drop out of school in order to avoid the source of their fear. Substance abuse can also occur, since many students attempt to self-treat their anxiety by taking downers such as prescription medications and alcohol. Many people with test anxiety report blanking out on answers to the test, even though they thoroughly studied the information and were sure that they knew the answers to the questions. Negative self-talk, trouble concentrating on the test and racing thoughts are also common cognitive symptoms of test anxiety.
Emotional symptoms of test anxiety can include depression, low self-esteem, anger and a feeling of hopelessness. Students often feel helpless to change their situation, or belittle and berate themselves about their symptoms and poor test performance.
Causes of Test Anxiety:
There are several potential causes of test anxiety, including:
1- A history of poor testing outcomes. If you’ve done poorly on tests before, either because you didn’t study well enough or because you were so anxious, you couldn’t remember the answers, this can cause even more anxiety and a negative attitude every time you have to take another test.
2- Being unprepared. If you didn’t study, or didn’t study well enough, this can add to your feeling of anxiety.
3- Being afraid of failure. If you connect your sense of self-worth to your test scores, the pressure you put on yourself can cause severe test anxiety.
Ways to Help Overcome Test Anxiety
Fortunately, there are steps that students can take to alleviate these unpleasant and oftentimes harmful symptoms. Some ways to help overcome test anxiety include:
1- Relaxation techniques like deep breathing can help you to relax before and during a test.
2- Make sure you get enough sleep and eat healthy meals.
3- Work on developing good study habits and make sure you are well-prepared for tests. One good way to do this is to reward yourself for goals you set as you study.
4- Don’t connect your self-worth to the test’s outcome. It’s one test and your worth-whileness as a person is not dependent on grades.
5- Focus on the test and try not to get distracted.
6- Stay positive.
7- If you need extra support, make an appointment with your school counselor.
What are the Signs and symptoms?
Researchers believe that feelings of anxiety arise to prepare a person for threats. In humans, anxiety symptoms are distributed along a continuum and different symptom levels of anxiety predict outcomes. Responses consist of increased heart rate, stress hormone secretion, restlessness, vigilance, and fear of a potentially dangerous environment. Anxiety prepares the body physically, cognitively, and behaviourally to detect and deal with threats to survival. As a result, a person’s body begins to hyperventilate to allow more oxygen to enter the bloodstream, divert blood to muscles, and sweat to cool the skin. In individuals, the degree to which an anxiety response is developed is based on the probability of bad things happening in the environment and the individual’s ability to cope with them. In the case of test taking, this might be a failing exam grade that prevents the student from being accepted to a post-secondary institution. A person’s beliefs about their own competencies are a form of self-knowledge, which plays an important role in analyzing situations that might be threatening. When a person has feelings of low competence about their abilities they are likely to anticipate negative outcomes such as failure, under uncertain conditions. Thus, evaluative situations including tests and exams, are perceived as more threatening by students who have low competencies.
There is a difference between generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) and test anxiety. GAD is characterized by “trait anxiety” which results in a person experiencing high levels of stress across a wide range of situations. In contrast, people with test anxiety have a “state anxiety” which results in high levels of nervousness specific to testing.
Symptoms of test anxiety can range from moderate to severe. “Students who exhibit moderate symptoms are still able to perform relatively well on exams. Other students with severe anxiety will often experience panic attacks.”
Common physical symptoms include: headache, upset stomach, feeling of fear, feeling of dread, shortness of breath, sweating, pacing or fidgeting, crying, racing thoughts and blanking out.
During states of excitement or stress, the body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline is known to cause physical symptoms that accompany test anxiety, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. In many cases having adrenaline is a good thing. It is helpful when dealing with stressful situations, ensuring alertness and preparation. But for some people the symptoms are difficult or impossible to handle, making it impossible to focus on tests.
Test anxiety consists of:
1- Physiological overarousal – often termed emotionality. Somatic signs include headaches, stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heartbeat and dry mouth. Test anxiety can also lead to panic attacks, in which the student may have a sudden intense fear, difficulty breathing, and extreme discomfort.
2- Worry and dread – maladaptive cognitions. This includes catastrophic expectations of gloom and doom, fear of failure, random thoughts, feelings of inadequacy, self-condemnation, negative self-talk, frustration and comparing oneself unfavorably to others.
3- Cognitive/Behavioral – poor concentration, “going blank” or “freezing,” confusion, and poor organization. The inability to concentrate leads to impaired performance on tests. Fidgeting during or outright avoidance of the test. Students often report “blanking out” even though they have studied sufficiently for the test.
4- Emotional – low self-esteem, depression, anger, and a feeling of hopelessness.
What are the Causes of Test Anxiety?
Research shows that parental pressure is associated with greater worry, test irrelevant thoughts, and stronger bodily symptoms relating to anxiety during a test.
Other causes of test anxiety may include fear of failure, procrastination, and previous poor test performance. As well, characteristics of the test environment such as: nature of the task, difficulty, atmosphere, time constraints, examiner characteristics, mode of administration and physical setting can affect the level of anxiousness felt by the student. Researchers Putwain & Best (2011), examined test performance among elementary children when the teacher put pressure on the students in an attempt to create a more high stress environment. Their findings showed that students performed worse in high threat situations and experienced more test anxiety and worrisome thoughts than when in a low threat environment.
Test anxiety is known to develop into a vicious cycle. After experiencing test anxiety on one test, the student may become so fearful of it happening again they become more anxious and upset than they would normally, or even than they experienced on the previous test. If the cycle continues without acknowledgement, or the student seeking help, the student may begin to feel helpless in the situation.
People who experience test anxiety often have parents or siblings who have test anxiety or other types of anxiety. Anxiety does seem to have some genetic components.
While test anxiety can be very stressful for students who suffer from it, many people do not realize that is actually quite common. Nervousness and anxiety are perfectly normal reactions to stress. For some people, however, this fear can become so intense that it actually interferes with their ability to perform well on a test.
So what causes test anxiety? For many students, it can be a combination of things.
Bad study habits, poor past test performance and underlying anxiety problems can all contribute to test anxiety.
Biological Causes of Test Anxiety
In stressful situations, such as before and during an exam, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline. This helps prepare the body to deal with what is about to happen and is commonly referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. Essentially, this response prepares you to either stay and deal with the stress or escape the situation entirely. In a lot of cases, this adrenaline rush is actually a good thing. It helps prepare you to deal effectively with stressful situations, ensuring that you are alert and ready.
For some people, however, the symptoms of anxiety they feel can become so excessive that it makes it difficult or even impossible to focus on the test. Symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and shaking hands can actually make people feel even more nervous, especially if they become preoccupied with test anxiety symptoms.
Mental Causes of Test Anxiety
In addition to the underlying biological causes on anxiety, there are many mental factors that can play a role in test anxiety. Student expectations are one major mental factor. For example, if a student believes that she will perform poorly on an exam, she is far more likely to become anxious before and during a test.
Test anxiety can also become a vicious cycle. After experiencing anxiety during one exam, students may become so fearful about it happening again that they actually become even more anxious during the next exam. After repeatedly enduring test anxiety, students may begin to feel helpless to change their situation.
1- Fear of failure. While the pressure to perform can act as a motivator, it can also be devastating to individuals who tie their self-worth to the outcome of a test.
2- Lack of preparation. Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can leave individuals feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
3- Poor test history. Previous problems or bad experiences with test-taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests.
How to Beat Exam Anxiety/Test Stress?
For many, taking a test can be one of the most frightening experiences in the world. There’s all kinds of pressure flying at you from all sides and perspectives. What if you don’t know enough? What if you can’t prepare well enough in time? What if you fail? How could this affect your overall grade? Your future?
We understand where you’re coming from! Testing is tough. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips and suggestions to keep in mind as you get ready for your test. Test anxiety is common, but it’s treatable and beatable. Read on to learn more. It’s normal to feel some level of anxiety when you have a big test coming up. The best solution, however, is to stay calm and focus on studying and preparing as much as you can. By mapping out a study plan, you should be able to build up quite a bit of confidence before testing day arrives. Here’s how you can start.
When athletes are called upon to perform in high-pressure situations many of them describe having peaked senses that they use to their advantage. They’re able to quiet their minds, zone out the audience, and make the catch. Kids with test anxiety have the opposite reaction.
“Anxiety also has the potential to shut you down,” explains neuropsychologist Ken Schuster. “When kids are having test anxiety they can’t think clearly, they can’t judge things the way they could if they weren’t anxious. All of your other abilities get clouded up by anxiety.”
Every student who aims to become a high-achiever will experience exam stress. It’s an unavoidable part of student life that can be a tough nut to crack. Remember, stress exists for a reason and you can choose to let it be your downfall or use it to drive you to improve your work.
To combat exam stress, firstly you need to understand the reasons behind this heightened anxiety. Then you can establish methods to reduce the pressures you feel. Researchers have uncovered some common explanations for this:
i- Low motivation levels
ii- Lack of preparation and planning
iii- High expectations from others
iv- Competition from peers
The difference between a student who allows stress to overwhelm them and someone who uses it to push them harder is what they do when they are facing that brick wall mid-study. Admirable students will pause, reflect and choose a path that will help them overcome the impasse, not just wait for the wave to engulf them.
Outlined below are some unexpected ways that you can put those negative feelings to one side and concentrate on your learning goals. If you’re not stuck for inspiration at this moment (maybe you’re procrastinating by reading this?), you may be looking for this advice before your exams so take note!
How to reduce Exam Anxiety/Test Stress in 78 Easy Ways
1- Find out what will be on the test. Typically your teacher will give you some idea of what will be on the test before you study. However, this won’t always be the case, especially where standardized tests are concerned. If this is the case, you’ll want to do a little research. Be sure to find out as much as you can about the setup of the test alongside the featured subject matter.
2- Never procrastinate! Waiting until the last minute to study means you won’t retain nearly as much information as you’ll need and won’t do as well as you could. Studying and testing are intimidating for the majority of people. However, putting it off is the academic equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. You want to hit the ground running rather than limp towards the finish line. Give yourself plenty of time to study before the test arrives.
3- Take great notes. Good test preparation starts from the moment class begins! As you listen to lectures and participate in class on a regular basis, be sure to take thorough notes. This way, you’ll be that much more prepared when it comes time for you to study. If there are any gaps in your notes, whether due to absences or anything else, you can get a friend to help fill you in.
4- Keep an eye out during class time. Your reviewing won’t always be independent work! Oftentimes the teacher will go over materials that will receive special attention on the test in order to help everyone prepare. You’ll profit by keeping your ears open!
5- Study with others. You may find working with a group is far more effective (and enjoyable!) than studying on your own. If you have friends in your class, consider asking if you all can meet to study for the exam and compare notes.
6- Organize your desk. While you may not realize it, a clean desk in a quiet space makes it far easier for you to study! If you don’t have such an area at home, the library or a similar space makes for a great substitute. Make sure whatever space you choose is not only quiet, but empty of any potential distractions.
7- Draft your study plan. Going into study mode whenever the mood strikes you or any time you have enough time available will eventually prove ineffective. After all, most of us don’t spend our free time studying. Before you begin preparing for a test, etch out a block of time to devote purely to your studies. Be sure to also make some time for your hobbies to prevent burnout!
8- Always study when you’re alert. You won’t be able to retain anything nearly as well when you study while exhausted. Instead, plan your study time when you know you’ll be full of energy and can pay attention to what you’re reviewing.
9- Utilize your free time. There isn’t anything wrong with indulging in some spontaneous preparation! If you have a bit of time on your hands from day to day, consider creating some portable notes and glancing over them during your downtime. This will help to improve your knowledge retention.
10- Go over older notes. The point of any exam is to assess what you’ve learned from your class sessions. You can’t show off that learning by looking over your notes once then never again. Review older lessons alongside what you’ll be tested on. You never know when older information may come in handy, and doing this will allow you to really grasp everything you’ll need to know.
11- Don’t forget SQ3R! SQ3R refers to surveying your learning materials, composing questions from the rudimentary concepts of what you’re reviewing using what you know about the test’s subject matter, reading the materials fully, reciting each question you’ve come up with, and reviewing your responses to each question for accuracy. This is a great way to prepare for short answer questions.
12- Face your fears. If there are any particular types of questions that could potentially be on the exam and that intimidate you, you can face them head-on by quizzing yourself while you study. This gives you a safer atmosphere for getting questions wrong, and helps you learn how to better tackle the question so they’re easier to answer during the real exam.
13- Practice tests are your best resource. If the exam you’re preparing for is standardized, taking practice versions is an invaluable way to prepare. You’ll be able to get a firsthand glimpse of the exam in its entirety, meaning you’ll more adequately know what to expect and which areas you’ll need to give more focus as you keep studying.
14- Write out sets of flashcards. Flashcards have long served as the go-to resource for students. You can easily use them to quiz yourself on smaller concepts, such as vocabulary words or specific facts you’ll need to know for the exam.
15- Read out loud. Don’t worry about how you’ll sound. Reading your notes out loud will help your retention by hitting two major memory points: listening to the information and talking about it.
16- Acronyms are great for memorization. Consider how many concepts you already remember because they’ve been organized into neat, easy to remember acronyms. Making up your own acronyms for a tricky concept can be the first step to memorizing it more easily.
17- Don’t neglect yourself. There’s no point in studying to the point you neglect your basic needs. If you stress yourself out too much, you could wind up being too sick to make it to class on test day, putting you back at square one. Be sure to eat and drink regularly, sleep for at least eight hours each night, and stay active in between studying. A healthy test taker is a successful test taker!
18- Grant yourself incentives. Sometimes a big task is easier to tackle once you’ve split it into smaller chunks and placed a few rewards to help you along. If you find you can’t study in long stretches, consider setting shorter blocks of time for your studies which you can conclude with something you enjoy, be it a TV show, a snack, or a relaxing hobby.
19- Be positive! Your belief in yourself can easily nosedive in the face of a challenging exam looming over the horizon. However, believing you’ll fail from the get-go could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep an optimistic attitude while you study and you’ll make excellent progress!
20- Make the test seem fun. We know what you might be thinking. If you thought test-taking was fun, you wouldn’t be reading this article! However, turning the test into a sport can eliminate much of the pressure and seriousness that’s making you feel so nervous.
Text Anxiety/Exam Stress During the Exam
21- Oftentimes our nerves don’t hit us until test day arrives. We’ve all opened our testing booklet only to find our heads emptying of all knowledge or stuttering to respond to the first question. Here are a few ways you can calm your nerves as you finally take that big exam.
22- Grant yourself the best possible start. Don’t spend the night before the exam doing any last minute cramming! Sleep actually serves as an effective method of helping your brain store information, so you’ll want to give it the chance to do so. Be sure to have a nutritious breakfast before you test! This will ensure your brain is properly energized and ready to help you remember what you’ve studied.
23- Lend yourself a break—from studying, that is! You’ve spaced out your studying well enough beforehand that you really do know all that you need to know. Forcing yourself to do more on the morning of your exam won’t do you any favors. In fact, it could burn you out! Be kind to yourself by relaxing a bit prior to the exam.
24- Start on the right foot. Be sure you arrive on test day with everything you need and on a punctual manner. This will ensure you’re able to devote yourself completely to finishing the exam.
25- Maintain positive self-talk. You’ve studied as hard as you can. The test is right in front of you, and you’ve gathered all the possible knowledge you can to succeed. You can do this! All you have to do is remind yourself you’re capable of acing the test. Swallow down your worries and it’ll be easier to perform at your best.
26- Try to emulate your study environment. Just as you’ve studied somewhere quiet and with few places to snag your attention away from the material, you should do the same when it comes time to take a seat and test. This will ensure you’re able to work at full capacity and concentrate.
27- Read all of the instructions. Failing to pay enough attention to instructions is how we make the majority of our testing errors. Prior to answering any questions, be sure to go over all of the instructions twice. That way you’ll have the best possible idea of how to approach each question.
28- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Understanding what you’re supposed to do is just as vital to doing well on your exam as the studying you’ve put in. If you find yourself confused by any instructions on the exam, flag down a teacher or test administrator and ask them what it means. Your score will profit from it!
29- Skim the entire exam. Scanning every facet of the test can help it to seem far less scary. Take a glimpse not just at the material, but at how much each section is worth and any time limits placed upon you. This will give you a sense of how to tackle the exam in the most effective manner possible.
30- Record what you know. Sometimes as we test, we forget things we very clearly knew right before we started. To remedy this, be sure to write down the most important facts you’ve memorized—whether they’re dates, formulas, or anything else—so you can easily reference them again later.
31- Relax! Take miniature breaks every so often as you test. Of course, we don’t mean getting so relaxed you doze off in the middle of the exam! Just breathe and try to re-gather yourself at regular intervals. It’s easy to grow tense during exams without realizing, which can affect your memory.
32- Invest your time wisely! Reviewing the test beforehand will allow you to figure out the best way to spend your time. You’ll want to focus on the exam sections with the most exam weight first. This will help you to ensure you score as many points toward your grade as you can.
33- Don’t speed through the exam. This is the easiest way to make careless mistakes while you test. Even if you have a time limit to deal with, you want to slow down and make sure you’re following instructions and paying close attention to what you’re doing. The key is to work smarter, not faster!
34- Don’t mull for too long. If you find yourself stuck on a question, it’s perfectly okay to put it on hold and come back to it later. That way you don’t miss out on points by investing too much time in one question, especially if the exam is timed. The answer just may come to you in the meantime.
35- Accept that you won’t know everything. It’s incredibly difficult to know absolutely everything there is to know on a test, especially if it’s a very long or standardized test. Sometimes you’ll see questions on the exam that you had no way of preparing for. However, you’ve studied enough that you should see more questions you’ll know how to answer than questions you don’t!
36- It’s okay to guess! The process of elimination is one of the very best strategies you can have for any multiple choice exam. What’s even better is very few exams count off from your score because you’ve made a guess. Any answer is better than no answer, and you could very well end up picking the right answer and gain more points toward your score!
37- Review! Once you’ve finished every question on the test, you’ll want to review everything if you have any time left. You always want to do whatever you can to avoid careless mistakes in your testing. Checking over the answers you’ve given allows you to make sure you’ve filled everything in and haven’t missed any important information or steps as you’ve worked through the exam.
38- Create an outline for essays beforehand. While you may feel pressed for time, you don’t want to leap ahead into writing out the essay portion of your exam. This is the first and easiest way to end up with a jumbled mess that may earn a much lower score than you want. Write down the basics of your ideas, and you’ll discover a world of difference in how well-written your work is!
39- Check your essays too! While essays aren’t quite as easy to correct as multiple choice questions, you can still make a few edits while you have the time. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to read over your essay one more time before the testing session ends.
40- Extra credit is your friend. If you feel you know the answer to extra credit questions, there’s no harm in giving them a shot. Extra credit means extra points, which will be added onto your score!
41- Speed isn’t the name of the game. If you see other classmates completing their exams before you, remember everyone works at their own pace. It’s okay if you haven’t yet finished! Don’t freak out and rush, as this makes it easier to miss questions you’d otherwise get right if you take your time.
Dealing with Test Anxiety/Exam Stress After the Exam
42- Even once the test is over and done with, anxiety can creep over us anew. We wonder how well we did and if we really prepared as well as we originally thought. Sometimes the questions that stumped us stick firmly in our mind’s eye, convincing us we did far worse than we may have done in reality. Here’s how to banish those thoughts:
43- Don’t dwell on “what ifs.” What’s done is done. You’ve studied hard and done your absolute best. That’s all that matters, no matter what grade you get! You can always use this exam as a learning tool for how to better prepare for the next one.
44- Don’t let classmates increase your fears. Hearing how poorly other people think they did on the test will only raise your hackles unnecessarily. Again, the point is to relax. You’ve already taken the test, so the hard part is over!
45- The first test is the best gauging tool. If this is the very first exam you’re taking for a particular class, you can use it as a rubric for what other exams will be like in the future. You will then have a better sense of how to prepare and boost your chances of scoring better next time.
46- Use your returned test as a reference. Once you have your score and test papers back, you can use it to further prepare for yourself for other tests in the class (or for retakes, depending on the type of test.) Check out where you didn’t do as well and make a note to pay special attention to that subject or question type the next time you have an exam to study for.
47- Don’t forget to reward yourself! You’ve overcome a hard task: finishing an exam in the face of anxiety! You should give yourself credit by doing something you like, whether it’s a Netflix binge or a favorite snack. You’ve earned it!
48- It’s okay to feel anxious. No feeling is invalid. Tests are a big deal, and it’s completely understandable that you feel nervous. Everyone does. In fact, a bit of anxiety keeps you conscious of how to work efficiently. The key is dealing with your test anxiety is ultimately to work through it so it doesn’t inhibit you testing at your absolute best.
49- You are not your score. Too often we let our grades affect our self-esteem. You’ve prepared as much as possible for the exam. No matter what kind of score you get, you’re still worthy as a student and a person. One exam will not destroy your entire future. All you can and should expect from yourself is your best.
50- Sleep is one key to success. By ensuring you sleep for at least eight hours the night before you take your test, you’ll equally ensure your memory runs at full capacity. This means you’ll be far more prepared to take the test, and won’t feel quite so nervous.
51- Get professional advice. If none of these suggestions are able to quell your anxiety, it may be time to seek counseling services. You can find such services on campus, whether you’re in college or high school. Sometimes talking to someone is the best remedy for alleviating our fears.
52 Listen to Classical Music. Listening to music can create a positive and productive environment by elevating your mood and encouraging you to study more effectively and for longer. Classical music is recommended as the best type of music to boost your brain power but ambient music can work too. Check out the playlists on Spotify to easily find what works for you.
53- Take a Quick Walk. Many students feel as if they should spend their entire time before exams with their books open and their pen poised for action. However, research has proven that exercising such as taking a walk can boost your memory and brain power.
54- Plan your Study Routine. This may not be a big surprise but what is shocking is the amount of students who discount the benefits of creating a personal study plan. With some initial effort, you can become more productive and motivated each day you approach your study by understanding your learning progress. If you’re using our learning platform, the GoConqr calendar tool will help you align your goals with your day-to-day study, get started here.
55- Play with Bubble Wrap & Puppies. Where do puppies come into exam stress? Lots of universities have installed ‘puppy rooms’ where students can come to relieve stress and anxiety. Pets have also been found to help you focus while studying but we wouldn’t recommend dropping into the library with your pet hamster! Popping bubble wrap is another stress reliever you can save for home study.
56- Try to Get Enough Sleep. For some people, this is something that’s always put on the long finger especially if you are trying to get the most out of college life. The benefits of a proper night’s sleep can never be underestimated. Most importantly, sleep helps your brain to assimilate new knowledge into your long-term memory so that you can recall it when it comes to test day. Anyone who has tried to concentrate with half a night’s sleep can also testify to improved focus with better sleep.
57- Use Mobile Apps. There are tons of mobile apps designed to improve your quality of life. Whether you want to get better organised, improve your mental arithmetic or work on your English language skills, there’s an app for that. We’ve even launched our own mobile apps for iOS and Android so you can make the most of your time no matter where you are. Downloading the app will give you access to over 2 million learning resources from around the world. Get the app for free here:
58- Give Your Mind Space. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to take a break and see your stress from a different perspective. Practicing meditation is another way to maintain focus while improving both mental and physical health to reduce pre-exam stress.
59- Eating Dark Chocolate. Believe it or not this is 100% true. Eating dark chocolate which is over 70% cocoa fights the stress hormone cortisol and has an overall relaxing effect on the body. Plus chocolate releases endorphins which act as a natural stress fighter.
60- Let it All Out. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone, other times you need to shout it from the rooftop or scream from the top of your lungs. Figure out what you’re feeling and then let it out. Speaking to a family member or friend can highlight the bigger picture for you and empower you to rise above the exam stress.
61- Break Free from Distractions. I bet you don’t even realise the number of times you check Facebook, Instagram or whatever your vice is? When you add it all up together, it amounts to a significant waste of time. It can be hard to detach from your life outside of studying but keeping the end goal and timeframe in mind will ease the process. We recommend the SelfControl website blocker.
62- Practice your exam performance the morning of the “show”. Not the whole thing, but a bits and pieces. This is your warm-up and will help you begin to focus on the performance.
63- Have some sort of pre-event routine that will prepare you mentally, emotionally and physically. Even NOT having a traditional routine is fine (goofing off, not paying attention to the upcoming event) as long as you realize that this works for you.
64- Custom planning is the key. You need a routine that will work specifically for you, not one that your test-taking buddies do. Experiment to find the one that meets your needs.
65- What are your needs? You want a routine that focuses you, helps you contain anxiety, energizes you with positive energy, psyches you up mentally so you expect to do well and helps you make a gradual transition into your performance state.
66- The performance state is a special consciousness that is different from our normal day-to-day existence. We need to enter that state well before the exam begins. Just arriving at the exam and then rushing on will not do it. A gradual leaving behind of our normal day and a slow immersion into our “testing head” is required.
67- Your pre-exam routine is very much a ritual. You need to have a series of steps in the routine that you do each time before a test. Over time, this ritual begins to feel comfortable, normal and will work for you. It’s a security blanket for your confidence.
68- It’s important to maintain the same ritual in the same order each time you prepare. It’s this sameness that kicks off your psych-up energy and automatically helps you focus, relax and energize.
69- The ritual you design should be no shorter than 10 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes or so. Any shorter and the effect is not as powerful, and any longer and you may not be able to find the time or space to execute it. The best rituals are done quickly and require no special equipment or place.
70- Check any equipment you will be using. Make sure everything is in order. Do a final check. Make sure all physical things are under control as much as possible. This frees your mind of worry.
71- Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax your muscles. Do this for five minutes. Then think back to a time when you aced an exam and scored extremely well. That was you in the zone. Recapture the feelings of that zone experience by recalling how your mind was clear, your emotions were calm, your muscles were relaxed and your motivation to succeed was high.
72- Be prepared. Develop good study habits. Study at least a week or two before the exam, in smaller increments of time and over a few days (instead of pulling an “all-nighter”). Try to simulate exam conditions by working through a practice test, following the same time constraints.
73- Develop good test-taking skills. Read the directions carefully, answer questions you know first and then return to the more difficult ones. Outline essays before you begin to write.
74- Maintain a positive attitude. Remember that your self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by a test grade. Creating a system of rewards and reasonable expectations for studying can help to produce effective studying habits. There is no benefit to negative thinking.
75- Stay focused. Concentrate on the test, not other students during your exams. Try not to talk to other students about the subject material before taking an exam.
76- Practice relaxation techniques. If you feel stressed during the exam, take deep, slow breaths and consciously relax your muscles, one at a time. This can invigorate your body and will allow you to better focus on the exam.
77- Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise and allow for personal time. If you are exhausted—physically or emotionally—it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety.
78- Visit the counseling center. Schools are aware of the toll exams can take on students. They have offices or programs specifically dedicated to helping you and providing additional educational support so that you can be successful.
Even after having done all you can to prepare, it’s still good to be armed with some strategies for getting through the test and putting the brakes on any Stress/anxiety you might start feeling in the moment.
Better Study Strategies Without Test Anxiety/Exam Stress:
1- Know the test format. “Imagine if you took the SAT but you never did any SAT prep. That could happen to a kid all the time,” says Dr. Cruger. “They studied the content but they didn’t know what the format was going to be, so they don’t feel like they are prepared.” So kids should try to find out what format the test will be. Multiple choice? True or false? Essay? A combination? Just knowing the format will help them feel more prepared and take away the shock they might feel when they are handed the test. And if it is possible to take some practice tests, do it.
2- Reorganize the material. Try to think about what the main ideas are in what the class has been studying. Outline the big events and issues, and think about the themes that unite them. This is a more active style of studying that helps kids think about what they have been learning in a different way from how it was presented, which will give them a richer understanding of it. And the better you understand something, the harder it will be to stump you.
3- Think about possible questions. Predicting and answering questions ahead of time helps kids gain more mastery over the material and feel more confident. But try to think flexibly. “We like our tests to require people to solve the problem, but often not in the way we taught them the problem,” warns Dr. Cruger. So if you know you will have some essay questions to answer, try to predict what the topics might be and practice writing your answer ahead of time. If you know there will be some word problems, think about how the things you’ve learned in class might be turned into a word problem. Look at the word problems that already came up on homework assignments.
4- Have a plan: Kids who learn and use basic test-taking strategies tend to feel more confident. For example he recommends:
I- Don’t spend too much time on any one question.
II- If it’s a multiple choice test, read each answer and then cross out the ones you know aren’t right to help yourself narrow it down.
III- Pick an answer and stick with it—we all have the tendency to second-guess ourselves and it can lead to wasted time and wrong answers.
5- Break things up: When you start to feel panicked, look for a way to change the focus. For example, Dr. Cruger says that if he sees a question that really throws him off during a test—the kind of question that makes him think, “Is this written in English?!”—he will sometimes turn to the last page and answer the last question first. “Somehow breaking up the routine seems to be helpful for getting things done,” he says. “Other people have told me they do this, too.”
6- Practice calming techniques: Sometimes kids like to bring things like worry stones into tests that they can use almost like a stress ball. Practicing deep breathing and using mindfulness techniques can also be effective.
7- Accept when you don’t know something. Sometimes the best way to manage your anxiety is to accept that you don’t know the answer to a question and move on. If you feel like the test was unfair and didn’t give you a chance to show your knowledge, you can advocate with the teacher later.
8- Accommodations Some kids who really struggle with test anxiety may also be eligible for accommodations during test time. For example, some kids might need to get up and take a break during a test if they are really starting to panic and need to calm themselves down. Sometimes kids get more time because they aren’t working at an optimal speed because they’re experiencing low grade panic throughout the test. Kids may even be eligible for a modified version of the test.
Sometimes it can be hard to convince kids to start using new study or test-taking strategies. “You always need to sort of sell kids on the idea of trying something different,” warns Dr. Cruger. This can be frustrating for parents and teachers, who only want to help, but Dr. Cruger points out that “Kids are being asked to learn lots and lots of stuff from very well intention-ed adults all the time.”
If they don’t understand the rationale behind a new study method, they probably aren’t going to adopt it, so parents and professionals working with kids should be explicit about how a new technique might be helpful.
But when kids start feeling like they’ve studied well and they know the material and they have strategies to fall back on if they need them, their attitudes going into a test will transform. And having the right attitude is important. “I think the best test-taking mindset is something along the lines of ‘I’m a monster, I’m going to kill this test. There’s no way I can be fooled or do badly.
What, Worries Me The Most?
We’ve all heard about students who get so anxious about exams that they can’t function normally—some get cold sweats, some get dizzy and faint, some become nauseous. Extreme test anxiety, while rare, can be a tremendous problem. But did you know that virtually all students experience some degree of anxiety or stress at test time—and that any level of anxiety can negatively affect your performance on an exam? Addressing anxiety is a major success strategy for all students.
Have you ever felt like you studied well enough for a test, only to take the exam and discover you couldn’t remember much? See if this scenario sounds familiar:
It’s a multiple choice test. Marina knows she needs to do well on this if she has any hope of getting the grade she wants for this class. She has gotten through the first few questions okay, but now she’s run into a little trouble. Answers looks familiar, but she can’t quite remember anything in enough detail to be sure.
She skips a couple of questions and aims for one that looks doable. She narrows the answer down to two possibilities, but can’t settle on one. She tries re-reading the prompt, but it seems to get harder to even focus.
The clock is ticking. Some students get up to turn in their tests and leave. Marina tries to bear down, but it seems the more she tries, the harder it becomes. She feels upset because when she reviewed this last night, she felt like she knew it. Now she can’t seem to remember anything.
Marina gets through the test. It’s not terrible—but she knows she could have done a lot better. By evening, in fact, she’s remembered answers to several questions she knows she got wrong!
Marina realizes that she is having difficulty recalling information. She tries harder to think, but it seems like the harder she tries, the harder it becomes to remember. The more anxious she gets, the worse she does. As her test anxiety gradually increases, her brain’s ability to do the work she needs goes down.
Most test anxiety is mild enough not to cause severe physical symptoms. Marina doesn’t break out in a cold sweat. Her heart doesn’t start to race. She fidgets in her seat more than usual, and she feels a thick, dull headache coming on just a little bit, but that’s all. Yet, Marina’s anxiety levels are raised enough over the course of the test to interfere with her brain’s ability to think and remember. Her anxiety is not profound, but it definitely costs her points on the test.
Remember, fight or flight is a response to anxiety, not a cause of it. Most text anxiety comes from two often related sources: insufficient study and a pressure to do well. For example, Marina felt pressure to do well when the test began. As she took the test, she felt as though a lot of what she was reading looked familiar—yet she couldn’t be sure. This frustrating feeling raised her anxiety level even further—making recall of what she studied much more difficult than before.
To reduce the chance that anxiety will throw you off course, stick to this simple three-part plan:
1. Before Test Day.
Study more—a lot more. It may seem obvious, but insufficient study time is the biggest underlying problem for students who suffer from test anxiety. The simple fact is that most students who struggle with exams have not studied enough. Don’t be satisfied with doing well on homework, when reviewing your notes or on practice tests. Remember that the testing conditions are going to put pressure on you, and this pressure is going to affect your ability to recall things you know. The solution is simply to learn your material so well that you can easily recall it even under difficult conditions.* Repetition widens the pathways to memory. The more times you do something, the easier it will be to do.*
Breathe! Practicing some form of meditation or deliberate relaxation helps you to control your breathing, your heart rate and your thought processes. Focus your practice on calming yourself—by dismissing unwanted thoughts, refocusing your mind and controlling your breathing. There are many forms of meditation available to you—your college’s health center, counseling center or spiritual organizations can help you find a practice that suits your needs and lifestyle.
Practice positive thinking. The desire to avoid failure is a very poor motivator. To prime yourself for success, you must learn to banish negative thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I have to do well on this exam to lift my grade from the last one,” think, “I will do well on this test because I have studied as much as I can and because I know what I need to do to be successful.”
Sleep well and eat well. Few regular activities have as much of a bearing on stress and anxiety levels than resting your brain and eating well. Take care of yourself always, but pay extra close attention in the days leading up to the test.
2. On Test Day.
Don’t study. If you’ve studied well beforehand, you shouldn’t need to study on test day. A nice review would be helpful to jog your memory, but you’re probably not going to learn a lot of new stuff on the day of an exam. You may make yourself anxious, however, by worrying that you’re not ready.
Prime your brain. Be very thoughtful about what you eat and drink, what medicines you take, etc. For example, if you eat too close to a test, your body may focus more energy on digestion than on thinking. But being hungry won’t help either. Eat something healthy one to two hours before your test.
If you take ADHD medication or any medication that helps with focus and relaxation, be sure you follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. As for caffeine—you be the judge. A little may give your brain a helpful spark, but too much will raise your anxiety unnecessarily.
Visualize success. Fill your mind with affirmation. Remind yourself that you have done everything within your power to be ready, and that you will be successful as a result. Picture yourself answering the test questions with ease. Accept that you will do well, and that you have nothing to worry about.
3. During the Test.
Remind yourself that it’s only a game. Remember, tests don’t cause anxiety. The anxiety is your creation, and you can control it. Try regarding your test as a puzzle, there for your amusement only. Sure, you’re trying to score points—but it’s only because winning the game is more fun than losing.
A final word from your sponsor. Begin with a short private affirmation—a kind word to yourself—and a few relaxing breaths. Remind yourself one last time that you have done everything you could to get ready, and now you’ll do all you can to succeed.
Skim the test—but only if you think you can. Some people find skimming a test—to jog your memory and identify easier questions—is a helpful strategy. Others find that scanning a test makes them nervous. It’s a good idea, but it’s not for everyone. Decide whether this practice will help you.
Don’t stay stuck in the mud. Don’t let yourself struggle with a question. Give yourself enough time on it to try to jog your memory, but then move on to the next one. Remind yourself that even as you answer other questions, your brain is still searching for the answer to the one you skipped. Answering other questions while waiting may just help jog that memory.
If you continue to experience anxiety, or it is too severe for you to handle, it’s very important for you to seek help. Your college’s counseling center is a great place to start. Centers are staffed with psychologists and other specialists, many of whom do a great deal of work with anxiety and stress.
Humans have this amazing natural ability called the ‘fight or flight” mechanism, a defense system that’s hard-wired into our genetic code. If you’ve ever tried to avoid being hit by a car, threatened or attacked by someone or in some way suddenly frightened or put into danger, you’ve experienced fight or flight.
Your brain triggers a flood of adrenaline and testosterone throughout your system. Suddenly, you are faster and stronger and able to react physically even before you can stop and think about what you’re doing. If driving, you slam on the brakes. If someone sneaks up and scares you, your whole body jumps. Someone pulls a gun in a room, and everybody dives instantly to the floor. The fight or flight response mechanism is an effective defense against sudden danger.
For students, however, fight or flight poses a couple of problems. First, in addition to triggering muscle systems, it slows down the parts of our brain that think and analyze. This is great if you’re being attacked by a bear, not so great if you’re taking a test and need to think carefully about everything.
Second, the brain reacts to all anxiety-causing stimuli the same way. Whether you’re anxious about an oncoming train, or the difficulty in choosing between answer b and answer c, your anxiety—even just a little anxiety—is going to make thinking more difficult.
We hope this list will help you as you navigate preparing for and taking your next big exam. We at Mometrix Test Preparation believe in you! That’s why we strive to provide you with all the resources you could possibly need. We want you to succeed just as much as you do. Remember: you can do this. All you should expect from yourself is your best. Good luck! We know you’ll do just fine.
This will start you on the journey to the perfect pre-performance exam routine. I wish you the best of luck in your march to test-taking peak performance. Perfectionism is often our worst enemy. It can lead us to exhibit unhealthy behaviors and second guess ourselves when we shouldn’t. Be sure to keep these ideas in mind no matter what stage you’re at in the testing process.
Knowing about educational psychology and being test savvy is certainly an important part of being a good student, but top students who get consistently high grades also have a knowledge base and applied skills in stress control and peak performance. You need to know how to manage your mind, calm your emotions and relax your body so you can get into the “test zone”, that powerful, deeply focused mind-body state that gives you excellent recall, mental alertness and clarity. You need to learn these skills and become mentally tough so you can handle the extreme pressures of academia. Other mental skills training you need are visualization, confidence-building, mental readiness training and motivation skills.