We all experience some level of anxiety before a test. A little nervousness can actually help motivate us to perform our best. Too much anxiety can become a problem if it interferes with your performance on tests.
Some strategies for dealing with test anxiety...
Before the test:
- Be prepared. Study the material in advance; do not leave cramming for the day before!
- Get plenty of sleep! A full night of sleep is better than a full night of studying.
- Avoid any use of drugs and/or alcohol; they can interfere with your mental ability, including memory and concentration.
- Exercising before the test may increase your alertness.
- Eat breakfast! Fresh fruits and vegetables help to reduce stress. Avoid caffeine, sugar, and junk food.
- Allow yourself plenty of time. Don't arrive to the test too early or too late. Try to be there 10 minutes before the exam is scheduled to begin.
- Try to sit in the same seat you always do, or choose a seat where you will not be easily distracted.
- Don't try to review all of the information in your head once you are seated. Don't join your nervous classmates in a last minute study session!
- Use abdominal breathing to help reduce anxiety. Place one hand on your abdomen, right beneath your rib cage. Inhale through your nose and feel your abdomen fill like a balloon... count to three on your inhalation and then slowly exhale counting to four, feeling your abdomen contracting with the exhalation.
- Use pressure! Tense and relax your muscles. Sit up straight in your chair. Grab the underside of your seat with both hands on either side and pull up, pressing your body against the seat for several seconds. Exhale as you let go.
- Do a reality check. How important is this exam in the grand scheme of things? Put it in perspective.
- Use positive self-talk. Tell yourself "I can do this. I know the material. I've done this before."
During the test:
- Review the entire test. Read the directions carefully.
- Answer the easy questions first and then go back to the hard ones.
- Pace yourself. There is no reward for being the first done.
- If you blank on a question, skip it and go back to it later.
- Multiple choice questions; think of your own answer before looking at the answer options, choose the option that is closest to your answer. If none are close, read all of the answer options carefully and eliminate the ones you know are wrong.
- Essay questions; create a main sentence and a short outline.
- Read each question twice, underline key words, and rephrase the questions so they make sense to you.
- Take short breaks to tense and relax your muscles. Take deep breaths.
- Stay focused on the present moment, on the present question, on the present exam.
After the test:
- Try not to dwell on any mistakes you think you might have made or any information you did not know.
- Reward yourself with a preferred activity or treat.