What is test anxiety?
You paid attention in class, took great notes, completed all your assignments and used effective study strategies to prepare for the exam. You should feel confident about writing the exam, right?
For most students, it is common to feel a little nervous before writing a test. In fact, a little bit of nervousness can help us perform better because it encourages us to stay alert enough to tackle the questions we are about to face.
For some, the fear and nervousness that accompany a testing situation can be debilitating, making it harder to concentrate and making them more likely to forget the material that they studied. They may experience negative thoughts that convince them they are going to fail. They may even experience distracting physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating and shaking. If this sounds like you, read on for some tips on how to cope with test anxiety.
Coping with test anxiety:
- Before the test: Practice mindfulness. Visualize how you want the test to go. See yourself sitting calmly at your desk, reading each question carefully, completing the exam question by question, handing in your test and feeling satisfied when you are done.
- Be prepared to feel some anxiety. It is a normal part of test taking and shows you want to do well. It is okay to feel a little nervous, but make sure you have practiced strategies that will help you get your nerves under control if they start to become distracting.
- Use realistic self talk like "This is not as big a deal as it feels. It is just one test in my life." or "I have worried about failing tests before, and I usually do fine."
- Pause and breathe deeply several times while trying to let your body relax.
- Make a plan for how you want to approach the test. Look the whole test over and read the instructions carefully, so you can feel confident about what you will be asked to do. Plan out where you will spend the most time and what order you will complete the test in.
- Skip questions you don't know and come back to them later. Use process of elimination or another strategy if you encounter a question where you truly do not know the answer.
A great resource for helping you cope:
Anxiety BC is an organization that provides tons of free resources to help people with anxiety find help and manage their symptoms. One of the resources they have put together is this booklet on dealing with test anxiety (it contains helpful study tips too!):