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Test Anxiety

Test Anxiety


To experience stress prior to a test is quite common. We may even consider that to be a positive sign, showing that we really care about the outcome of the task that lies ahead. For some, however, pre-test stress can actually manifest as a disproportionate mental or physical reaction to a relatively normal stressor. Those who experience test anxiety know that this high-degree of stress can interrupt our focus while studying for and taking the test; it can impair our memory during the test; and it might even cause us to perform worse, skewing our scores below what our actual knowledge and abilities would have otherwise achieved. Thankfully, once we become aware that this is something we struggle with, there are tools out there to help!

Here's a list of coping strategies that can help manage test anxiety:

  • Preparation and Organization

    • Start studying well in advance to avoid last-minute cramming.

    • Break down study material into smaller, manageable chunks.

    • Create a study schedule (and stick to it!).

    • Organize study materials and notes for easy access.

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques

    • Deep breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing to calm nerves.

    • Progressive muscle relaxation: Tense and then relax each muscle group to release tension.

    • Mindfulness meditation: Practice mindfulness to stay present and reduce anxiety.

  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices

    • Get adequate sleep: Ensure you're well-rested before the exam.

    • Eat a balanced diet: Fuel your body and brain with nutritious foods.

    • Exercise regularly: Physical activity helps reduce stress and anxiety.

    • Limit caffeine and sugar intake: These can increase feelings of anxiety.

  • Positive Self-Talk

    • Challenge negative thoughts: Replace self-doubt with positive affirmations.

    • Focus on past successes: Remind yourself of times when you've overcome challenges.

  • Seek Support

    • Talk to someone: Share your feelings with a friend, family member, or counselor. If you don’t get the help you need, you just haven’t found the right person yet! Don’t give up.

    • Join a study group: Collaborating with peers can provide support and reduce anxiety.

    • Talk to your teacher: Seek clarification on any uncertainties about the test.

  • Stay Balanced

    • Take breaks: Avoid over-studying (or obsessing) by taking regular breaks to relax and recharge.

    • Engage in hobbies: Participate in activities you enjoy to distract yourself from exam stress.

    • Maintain perspective: Remember that one test does not define your worth or future success.

  • Practice Test-Taking Strategies

    • Familiarize yourself with the test format: Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety.

    • Start with easy questions: Build confidence by answering simpler questions first.

    • Pace yourself: Manage your time effectively during the exam to avoid feeling rushed.

  • Practice Mindfulness During the Test

    • If you feel anxious during the test, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

    • Become aware of your surroundings: Notice things you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. Notice that the place you are in is safe, despite the stressful task you have before you.

  • Post-Exam Reflection

    • After the exam, reflect on what went well and identify areas for improvement.

    • Use feedback from the test to adjust your study strategies for future exams.

Remember that managing test anxiety is a skill that improves with practice. Experiment with different coping strategies to find what works best for you. If your test anxiety significantly impacts your daily life or academic performance, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor. Finally, rest assured that you are not alone!