Test anxiety is a common obstacle for students and we have some strategies to help! During this challenging time of plenty of adjustment and stress, we want to share some tools to help reduce test anxiety. Read on for Tips for Test Anxiety.
First, we need to understand a little more about stress.
Two psychologists, Yerkes and Dodson, discovered a correlation between stress levels and performance. Too much stress can cause us to feel overwhelmed. Too little stress often leaves us feeling unmotivated. However, we can complete tasks most effectively when there is just enough stress to motivate us. This is often what results in us feeling like we are in “the zone” and when we can complete tasks most effectively.
Though we may try our best to stay in “the zone” there are still times where we experience anxiety and feel overwhelmed. There are 3 things we can do to fix this.
CALM our bodies, be CONFIDENT in our minds, and FOCUS.
THREE TIPS FOR TEST ANXIETY
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU FEEL ANXIOUS?
We can calm our bodies using three different practices:
The simplest way we can calm our bodies is by breathing! Make sure to take deep breaths, initiating your breath from the belly. Pay attention to your breath, feel your breaths getting deeper, and notice when you aren’t breathing. Beyond taking deep breaths, another tool to use is to exhale while taking a test. It doesn’t have to be a large sigh or a big exhale, just make sure you aren’t holding your breath and tensing up. Exhale after reading a test question, looking through answers, and writing your answers down. When you’re ready to move to the next question, try not to dwell on the one you just answered. Instead take a breath and then move forward.
We can also calm our bodies by grounding. Grounding involves paying attention to your body in relation to your surroundings. This can be accomplished by feeling the chair underneath you, feeling the floor beneath your feet, and feeling your weight settle into space.
Additionally, there is the practice of sensing. Sensing refers to paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and even the tastes around you. This could be accomplished by noticing things such as the sound of the air conditioner, seeing the trees outside the classroom window, and feeling the pencil in your hand.
HOW CAN WE AVOID BEING ANXIOUS?
We’ve reviewed a few tips for test anxiety in the moment, but wouldn’t it be great if you could just avoid it all together? We have a few ideas as to how to reduce your anxiety before a test so that you are confident in the moment.
The best way to feel confident before a test is to make sure you MANAGE YOUR TIME!
Ask yourself – did you spend enough time preparing? Dedicating enough time to make sure you feel comfortable with the material you will be tested is one way to alleviate anxiety. This looks and feels different for everyone, and you will be the best judge as to when you feel ready. One effective study strategy is to work for 20-40 minutes, and then take a 5-minute break. Repeating this cycle of studying and breaks can help you accomplish tasks in smaller chunks and help you stay focused. If you’re worried about the test in the moment, remind yourself that you have studied and worked hard. Be confident that you know enough to reason through the questions and make the best choice according to what you’ve learned!
Focus. One way to combat test anxiety is to try and stay in the present moment and focus your energy on taking it one question at a time. Don’t worry about the question you just completed or fret about the rest of the test. Just focus on doing your best on each question and then once you jot down your answer, move forward.
Another great tool is using positive self-talk. Instead of telling yourself that you are a “bad test taker”, replace these negative thoughts and tell yourself that you are smart, capable, and can do well on a test.
It is important to remember that all the strategies we have discussed will take some practice! As you prepare for future tests and continue to study, try applying a few of these strategies. Be patient with yourself! Results might not happen overnight but with practice, these strategies can help you conquer test anxiety and study effectively.
If you found this blog on tips for test anxiety helpful, check out another blog we wrote on how to manage anxiety, read our blog entitled Getting Into Your Dream School While Decreasing Anxiety.
If you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to help!
You can schedule a 20-minute phone consult or a longer session here.
Some additional online resources can be found here!
(Adapted from Applerouth & Ben Bernstein, 2020)