Test anxiety is one of the most common issues in academics today. In fact, up to 20% of today’s students have severe test anxiety, while another 18% have moderate text anxiety. It can impact students’ recall and increase mistakes, leading to lower test scores.
At its core, test anxiety is linked to performance anxiety. It can impact anyone, from the professional in the board room to a young athlete during a game. And while it is a serious issue, there are also coping strategies you can use and practice to help you overcome it.
If you’re someone who struggles with how to deal with test anxiety, don’t fear! We have 11 fantastic test anxiety tips to help you do your best on your next exam. Keep reading below to learn more!
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Now, let’s get talking about exam stress and how to do well on the test coming up:
What Is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety occurs when someone feels nervous, tense, or worried about an upcoming project, presentation, or test. During a test, it can show up as physical or emotional reactions that interfere with your ability to do well.
There are three common causes of test anxiety: fear of failure (particularly for perfectionists), being underprepared, and past test performance. Any one of these reasons, or a combination, can lead to feelings of pressure and stress. Of course, there are other causes of test anxiety to consider, as well, such as an underlying condition of anxiety.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
Test anxiety can show up in many ways physically, emotionally, and cognitively/behaviorally. Each of these can show up as reactions ranging from minor to serious.
Physical symptoms of test anxiety include a racing heart, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating, nausea, or even headaches. Student emotions may be feeling depressed, angry, or even hopeless.
Students with test anxiety may begin to act out as well. Skipping classes, being disruptive, or even substance abuse to help deal with the feelings of anxiety are all possible. Some students may end up dropping out of school to avoid feelings of test anxiety.
Test anxiety can also interfere with cognitive function. You may find that you forget easy facts and information or you’re easily distracted. All these issues feed into lower performance, which can feed the cycle of test anxiety.
11 Best Test Anxiety Tips to Reduce Exam Stress
Are you ready to finally learn how to relieve test anxiety? Here are our top tips to help you deal.
1. Be Prepared
One reason that many students feel worried or stressed leading up to a big test is that they did not study or prepare as well as they should. Knowing that you may fail or walk into a situation where you’re not ready can leave anyone feeling stressed, worried, and even guilty.
Research shows that last-minute cramming is not an effective approach to learning. Sure, you may end up passing the test, but you’re increasing your stress levels and lowering your ability to recall important information. Both of these contribute to testing anxiety.
Instead, study early and often. Choose the same places or locations in which to prepare. If you study in a similar environment to where you’ll take your test, that may help as well.
2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Lack of sleep can have serious consequences. It can impact your memory, mood, and how well you’re able to cope with stress. Not only that, it can lead to an inability to concentrate and a lack of motivation.
In the days leading up to your test, and especially the night before, be sure to get to bed early. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep and include a way to wind down to help you relax.
3. Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
Avoiding sugar and processed foods can help you maintain your blood sugar level. You’ll avoid energy crashes if you focus on protein and healthy fats, like nuts.
Water matters to help your brain function at its best. Makes sure to stay hydrated in the week leading up to your test and avoid caffeine, which can add to feeling jittery. It can also cause your energy levels to spike and crash, which can have a bit impact on your ability to focus.
4. Remember the Big Picture
It’s easy to get caught up in the immediate stress of a big test or exam. It can loom large in your mind and end up consuming precious mental and emotional resources.
Try reminding yourself of the bigger picture. Maybe it’s that you’re one step closer to you your degree. Or that you’re pursuing something you feel passionate about.
If you’re short on inspiration, check out these education quotes to remind yourself of the value and importance of education. It’s more than the test in your near future, but about your life goals as well. That may help take the pressure off!
5. Get Some Exercise
There are many benefits of exercise when it comes to relieving tension and stress. It can put you in a good mood and distract you from any worries or fears. It can also help you to focus and retain more information when studying.
It’s easy to make excuses about avoiding exercise in the days leading up to a test or performance. After all, you need that precious time to study! However, taking a 30-minute break to go on a short run, walk, or bike ride is going to make you more efficient and effective with your studying time.
6. Talk to Your Teacher
Most professors and educators are well aware of the realities of test anxiety. Talking to them may help you get a more clear picture of how to prepare and what material to focus on. They might also have some effective test-taking anxiety tips.
Many schools have test-taking centers where you can make arrangements to take exams in a quiet, smaller environment. Sometimes, teachers will make accommodations to give you extended time, as well.
Your teacher should be the first conversation you have to help you create an effective plan to help you with different test-taking arrangements.
7. Practice Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques
When you start to feel the feelings and reactions for test anxiety creep up, take a minute to stop and take a deep, intentional breath. Breathe in through your nose, hold it for a heartbeat, then release it slowly through your mouth. Repeat five times to help you get a handle on those overwhelming feelings.
You can also try a mindfulness exercise by stopping what you’re doing and paying attention to your five senses: touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. Mentally identify one or a few of each. When you feel calmer, continue where you left off.
8. Try Visualization
Think about the outcome you want to achieve. Is it a certain score? Feeling calm throughout your test-taking?
Once you’ve decided what you’re picturing, find a quiet place to sit and close your eyes. Then, create a mental picture of the outcome, paying attention to your five senses. What are you touching? Hearing? Seeing?
Repeat this process in the days leading up to a big test. Then, when you find yourself in a stress-inducing situation, you’ll already have figured out what it will be like without the anxiety.
9. Repeat Positive Affirmations
When struggling with test anxiety, it’s easy to get caught in overthinking about the negatives. When you feed into those anxieties, it becomes easier to continue pessimistic thinking that way about this and every other test.
Instead, try some techniques to help you reduce negative thoughts and stop overthinking. Pick a few positive affirmations to repeat when you find yourself dwelling on the negatives.
Something as simple as, “My value is not based on my test score” can help remind you that it’s not as bad as it seems.
10. Get a Study Buddy
Having a friend to study with can hold you accountable. Teaching or quizzing one another is also a great way to help you stay on top of the material and improve recall.
Finding a friend in the class can also help you feel supported and encouraged in the lead-up to the exam. Knowing there’s someone in your corner to cheer you on is a great way to inspire you to do your best!
11. Plan Ahead
One easy way to control your testing situation is to plan ahead. Get to your testing site early to avoid the panic of running late. Pack your backpack the night before so you don’t forget anything vital.
If a loud environment is distracting, buy some earplugs and clear them with your teacher if you can wear them during the test.
Overcoming Test Anxiety
There are many strategies and techniques to help you overcome test anxiety. Remember that it starts in the weeks leading up to your big test by preparing, studying, and taking care of yourself.
But there are also plenty of test anxiety tips to help you during an exam to help you feel more calm and capable. You may only need one that works or a combination of several. No matter what, try them out and see what works for you.