Tips to Overcome Test Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Test anxiety is excessive worry or distress both before and during a test. While most people feel a little nervous before beginning a test, those with test anxiety feel so much fear it actually interferes with their ability to perform well. The fear makes it hard to remember what you learned and hard to concentrate.  Dr. Jerry Kennard, in a post entitled "Examination Anxiety" explains that students, "worry that they haven't prepared sufficiently, or that they will be asked ‘impossible to answer' questions. As exams approach they lose sleep, become edgy, irritable and emotional."

    Some suggestions for coping with test anxiety before the test:

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    Write down your fears. Test anxiety can be relieved when students spend a few minutes immediately before the test writing down their fears. A recent study by The University of Chicago showed a significant improvement (one full grade point) when students took 10 minutes to write down what caused their fear.  According to the lead researcher, worrying about the test uses some of your brainpower, taking away from your ability to do your bes33t on the test. When you write down your fears, your brain is freed up to focus on the test.


    Get a good night's sleep before the test. Try to plan your study time so that you are done at least one hour before bedtime. If you are cramming immediately before you head off to bed, chances are you will still be thinking about the test and have a hard time falling asleep. Spend the hour before bed relaxing by reading a book, taking a long bath, listening to music or whatever you find to be soothing. Without proper rest, you may not perform as well as possible.


    Eat a well balanced breakfast. Be sure  to eat breakfast the morning of your test. Being hungry will take away your focus. Fresh fruits are good. Avoid fried foods, soft drinks and drinks with caffeine.


    Have a study plan. It goes without saying that studying over a period of time is always better than cramming the night before a test.  Hopefully, you have reviewed class material each night, looking over what you learned that day as well as what you learned previously. Try to find study questions that can help you prepare for the test. You can talk with your teacher about sample questions or what resources would be most helpful for reviewing the material.  


    Avoid friends who are negative before the test. If your friends are negative or will make you even more anxious, avoid seeing them before the test. Let them know ahead of time that you won't have time to talk before the test and you would prefer to be left alone to mentally prepare yourself for the test.

    Some suggestions for coping with test anxiety during the test:


    Stay positive. If you find yourself focusing on the negative, you can end up in a downward spiral of anxiety. Your mind might go blank, you are so scared you can't focus. Instead of letting this happen, immediately change to focusing on positive thoughts. You might want to write down some ideas, such as "I am prepared for this test" or "I know the material." As soon as you notice you are feeling anxious or thinking negatively, repeat your positive phrases until you feel calmer.


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    Stay focused on your own test. Sometimes you can glance at other people during the test and think they are moving along faster than you or they might be looking worried and frazzled. Remember, their  progress on the test has nothing to do with your progress. Pay attention to your own test, don't worry about how others are doing.


    Ignore questions you don't know or understand the first time through the test. Answer the questions you know and go back to those you aren't sure about. This will make sure you don't run out of time and miss questions that you know. Once you have answered all the questions you are sure about, go back and take your time with those you aren't sure about.


    When answering an essay question, write a short outline first. This will help you stay focused when writing and will stop you from rambling. Begin the essay with a summary sentence and answer clearly.


    Remember to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, to help you stay relaxed during the test.


Published On: February 02, 2011