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Getting Over Test Taking Anxiety

January 9, 2021 8:47 pm0 commentsViews: 887

Broken pencil on a pad with the word helpTest anxiety is very common. Almost every student suffers from it to some degree and there is some cause to say that it is actually quite beneficial. A little bit of anxiety makes you more alert and ready to take on a challenge. However, sometimes anxiety becomes so significant that it negatively affects performance at exams, in which case it is a real problem. Luckily, there are plenty of things you are able to do in order to bring your anxiety back down to healthy levels.

Building Confidence as General Preparation

The first thing you have to do is develop a real and honest picture of your current skills. If you are at university, you could speak to an academic counselor about that. You can also speak to a study support officer to lean how to develop a proper study strategy and how to manage your time more appropriately. You can speak to tutors to make sure you are studying the right material. This all has to do with your ability to take on the requested work without getting overwhelmed. Do also look into whether there are any undue outside pressures that are lowering your confidence. Spend some time thinking about what the consequences would be if you fail. These consequences are usually much less severe than first expected, although this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about failing of course. Finally, take a look at how you have done on tests before and see whether that can increase your confidence.

Preparing for the Actual Test

The above are things you should always do. However, there are also plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself for the actual test. Confidence building exercises like the ones above may help. You should also learn about techniques that work for you, such as journaling, visualization, team work and so on. Always see an exam for what it is: an opportunity to determine how much you have learned. Create a checklist about all the things you need to learn and study before your exam. Make sure you get to your venue early so that you can choose a comfortable spot. It goes without say that you shouldn’t leave the studying until the last minute. It is also recommended to keep to yourself on the day of the exam. Those who are overconfident may bring you down somewhat and those who are worried can rub off on you. Also consider doing some exercise just before your exam as this can sharpen the mind. Naturally, get a good night sleep and have a healthy breakfast. Bring some fruit and vegetables with you and stay away from processed food for 24 hours.

During the Test

keep-calm-and-take-a-deep-breath-26Once you have entered the venue, you should start by properly reading your test paper. Allocate some of your time to each of the questions. Make sure you frequently change the way you sit, so your body can remain relaxed. If you come across a question that you don’t know, skip it and move on. Sometimes, this is not possible, such as during an essay test. If this happens, get some spare paper and simply start writing on one of the questions to see where you go. Never panic if you draw a blank and don’t pay attention to other students handing in their own papers before you. This isn’t about who finishes first. There are also various relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises you can use on the spot. Try to remember that you are in control and that, at the end of the day, it is only a test. Positive reinforcement is vital. Tell yourself that you have done what was expected so you should and do know the material. Remember, as well that some anxiety is good for you, and that any extreme anxiety is caused through negative habits, rather than an actual need for it to be there.

After the Test

Once you have handed in your paper, and you have had a minute to get yourself back together, it is time to review how you did. Think about the positive things, the answers you know you had right, and hang on to those. Don’t spend any time worrying about the things you didn’t know or weren’t sure about. Also think about the strategies you used to overcome your anxiety and list which ones worked best for you. Do also think about which anxiety-reduction techniques weren’t efficient, so you can dismiss them from future tests. Most of all, however, make sure that you celebrate that you have completed yet another test, and that your confidence will have increased through this. Although it is normal to speak to other students about how you feel you did, you need to not put too much weight onto how others feel they have done. Comparing notes when you don’t know how you really did can be very counterproductive. After all, if you felt confident about a certain question and someone else is confident about their answer, which is totally different from yours, you are likely to lose your own confidence. What will happen at that point is that you continue to be anxious until the results of the exams come in. This is complete counter-productive, since there is nothing you can do to change the results anymore anyway.

Always remember that real anxiety is a negative emotion. It is a form of stress that is not just bad for your mental health, but also for your physical health. This means that you end up stuck in a vicious cycle, because as your physical health deteriorates, you will be less able to cope with your feelings of stress as well. Remember to speak to your school counselor if you feel that things are getting too much and you are no longer able to cope with the stress.