The chatter in the room dies down as the teacher begins addressing the class, but you can barely make out his words. The drumming of your heartbeat in your ears drowns out everything he says. He lays a stack of papers in front of you – the final exam.
You stare at the front page. Your vision begins to blur, the letters all running into one another until they form an incoherent blob on the paper. The longer you stare, the dizzier you become. Your stomach begins to churn, you can feel a headache forming. With sweaty palms, you grab the pen.
All you can think is, “This is going to be a disaster.”
Test anxiety can affect people of all ages, no matter if they’re in high school, college, or on the job. This form of performance anxiety is usually produced by the pressure to do well or by past experiences of failure. Test anxiety interferes with mental performance, causing a person to freeze up or even blank out.
What can you possibly do about it?
Pretest Preparation: Minimizing the Occurrence of Test Anxiety
Develop a consistent pretest routine – Make sure you mark all test dates on a calendar so you can study and prepare well in advance. Regular short study periods are much better than a few long cramming sessions.
Seek assistance – Take advantage of school resources, like study skill classes or tutoring services, or enroll in test preparation courses. Make good use of other study aids too, such as flash cards.
Take care of yourself – Don’t brush aside your physical needs just because you’re mentally engaged in preparing for a test. Be sure to eat well and get moderate exercise. The night before a test, avoid caffeine and alcohol, eat a healthy meal, and get enough sleep. If you’re allowed to bring a snack to the exam, make it a light one and include sufficient water.
Test Day: Tips to Overcome Test Anxiety
Be prepared – Arrive early and make certain you have all necessary materials with you. Sit by yourself and avoid talking to others before the test – they might be anxious and that can be contagious.
Practice relaxation – Practicing breathing techniques – inhaling and exhaling to the count of 5 – before the test will help your body learn the signal to relax. If you need to, change positions during the test to help you relax, or flex different muscle groups throughout your body for a count 10 and then relax them.
Control your thinking – Pay attention to yourself, not on what others around you might do or think. If negative thoughts creep up, replace them with positive messages. Learn to accept that you will probably make some mistakes – nobody is perfect!
Approach the test with confidence – If you’ve studied and prepared well, you’re ready to give it your best. You can do this! First, make sure you take the time to read the directions and questions carefully – one question at a time. Second, think about your answer, then look at the choices presented and make your selection. Finally, move on.
Budget your time – Focus on the answers you know well. If you don’t know the answer to a question or you go blank, skip the question. Don’t worry if other people finish before you do – there are no extra points given for finishing first. At the end, if possible, take a moment to review your answers.
Mission accomplished! Take a deep breath and reward yourself for having tried your best.
If you still struggle with test anxiety after following these tips, consider seeing a therapist or counselor to help you with CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, or another treatment method.