Health Center: Handling test anxiety
Test Anxiety is an uneasiness or apprehensive experience before, during or after a test due to concern, fear or worry. Anxiety is something most people experience and a certain amount of anxiety is normal and helpful as a motivator. However, some students are so anxious that it interferes with their learning and test taking and may have a negative effect on their grades. If you have test anxiety ask yourself:
Is my anxiety due to 1) a lack of preparation or 2) a result of my panicking during tests?
If your anxiety is due to a lack of preparation than you will need to work on study skills and improving your study techniques. If you are prepared but still panic, than it is test anxiety. Test anxiety is a learned response or habit that can be changed. With some work you can learn test confidence. The steps below will help you.
- Be prepared! P reparation is important to reducing anxiety. Your level of anxiety is reduced the more prepared you are and it also increases your self-confidence. Learn your material completely. Don’t start studying the night before. You will retain more information if you study in small increments each day. Short and regular study sessions are more productive than one long single session. Start at least two weeks prior to the exam.
- Create a quiet and neat study area. Where you study can influence your concentration. Studying in the same location will help you associate that location with concentration. Make sure that you are comfortable and have good lighting. Sitting at a desk is better than lying in bed.
- Review all the information. Study the information from your notes, textbooks and any other materials handed out in class. Review information that you previously learned.
- Use unexpected free time to study. Carry index cards with information that you can study when you have moments of downtime.
- Make a study schedule. A time management system will enable you to see clearly how your time is being spent and will enable you to block out time for studying as well as for other activities.
- Take advantage of peak energy levels. Use the time of day when you have the most energy to do your studying.
- Work with a study group. Classmates can work together in a study group. It can be easier to study information that is more detailed. It is important that the study group focus on studying and not diverge into a social time. It is also a good opportunity to learn the content by explaining it to others. This allows for questioning and more in-depth thought about the subject matter.
- Study often and in smaller increments. Your memory of information lasts longer when it is spread over a period of time. Avoid cramming the information before a test.
- Reward yourself. After completing the studying you have scheduled reward yourself with a break.
- Healthy mind in a healthy body. Exercise, eat healthy, have a balance of academic and social activities.
- Make sure that you are well rested before the exam .
- Come to the exam with confidence. T he exam is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how much you know and to receive a reward for the studying you've done.
- Make sure that you have eaten something healthy prior to going to the exam. Taking an exam on an empty stomach can be distracting and make it difficult to concentrate.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
- Allow yourself plenty of time , especially to do things you need to do before the test and still get there a little early
- Relax just before the exam . If talking about the exam brings on anxiety avoid conversations about the exam with other students. Bring a newspaper or magazine to read while waiting.
- Don't try to do a last minute review. T his will erode your confidence and make you more anxious.
- Breathing exercises and positive self-talk can help in alleviating some of the stress before taking a test.
Practice relaxation techniques
- visualize yourself doing well;
- relax your muscles and breathing and let your mind wander to a pleasant memory;
- progressive relaxation where you relax each of the five major muscle groups;
breath deeply (five or six times) while relaxing your whole body.
- Make sure that you carefully read the directions .
- Budget the time that you have to take the test .
- If you don’t know the answer to a question or go blank on the answer then skip the question and go on to the next ones. A subsequent question may trigger the answer.
- If you go blank on an essay test pick a part of the question and start writing. Write an outline to help get your thoughts down.
- Don't panic when students begin to hand in their exams. You will benefit from taking time to consider and answer each question thoroughly.
- Don’t discuss the exam once it is over . Comparing answers with other students brings on additional anxiety.
- Reward yourself for a job well done with a relaxing and/or fun activity.
- When the exam is returned review the questions that you missed. Note the types of mistakes you made – were they careless errors, were the directions not read closely, was the question misunderstood or did you not know the material.
- Revise your study method if you find that it is not working. Keep what is working for you and disregard what is not.
If you have additional questions, concerns or need clarification please make an appointment with a Learning Assistance Counselor in the Health Center.