Tips for Managing Test Anxiety
You walk into the classroom and your heart starts beating faster. Your palms are sweaty and you are suddenly afraid you have forgotten everything from the class. Your mind is completely blank and you are really scared of bombing this test!
Is that how you feel when you're about to take a test? I've felt that way before, and I've tutored many students who felt that way. It can be paralyzing, and that fear can definitely affect your performance on tests and in school.
So, how can you get past it? Here are some strategies that will help you understand what causes the anxiety and how to overcome it.
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a fear of failure when taking a test or quiz, or testing your abilities in any way. Like performance anxiety, test anxiety has very real symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. Some sufferers even feel light headed or faint before or during a test.
Test anxiety has three main causes: fear of failure, past history of negative testing outcomes, and lack of preparation. Most people who suffer from test anxiety usually have a combination of these three causes.
How to Reduce Anxiety
It is important to get a handle on test anxiety early - to understand why you are anxious and know how to handle it. Reducing test anxiety must start when you begin studying for a test, not just the day of the test.
Reducing test anxiety starts with preparation. When you first find out that you have a test coming up, make sure to find out exactly what information will be tested and what format the test will be (multiple choice, short answer, etc.). Take time to prepare, and schedule your study so that you learn a little of the material each day. This slow and steady approach helps reduce your anxiety, because you are tackling the information in small chunks.
On the day of the test, there are some ways to prepare before you actually start the exam. First, make sure you eat before the test so you aren't hungry (which can be a distraction during the test). Also, wear clothes that are comfortable and that you feel good wearing. Finally, if you have a choice, sit far away from distractions (windows, doors, people who tap pencils, etc.)
Test Taking Strategies
During the test, there are some ways that you can stay calm and keep moving through the test without increasing your anxiety. If you know how to take the test and you've prepared for the test, there really isn't much to worry about!
When you first receive the test:
- Look over the entire test, if you can. Note what information is covered, and what sections will be the easiest.
- Read the directions. If you don't understand them or have a question, ask it now. It pays to make sure you fully understand what you need to do.
- If you can write on the test, or if you are given scrap paper, write down anything you think you may forget. This includes formulas, facts, names, etc. Write in the margins of the test if you are not given extra paper.
During the test:
- Try to concentrate only on what you are doing. Don't worry about what anyone around you is doing. You are prepared, so who cares what they are doing?
- Thoroughly read the directions for each section of the test as you go. Don't assume the directions are the same as on past assignments.
- If possible, tackle the easiest sections first. This will get them out of the way and improve your confidence.
- Try to relax - you've got this!
- Use your energy wisely. If you get stuck on a question, and you are able to skip questions and go back, then mark it and leave it behind. Don't waste time and energy staring at a question that has you stumped. You can come back to it later.
- If you did skip a question, look for clues to its answer in the other questions as you go along.
- If you have time left, go back through the test, rereading the directions and guessing on any questions you couldn't answer. Remember, there is no reward for being the first one done! So take your time, review the test, and instead get the reward of a high score!
Learn From Your Test Scores
When you get a test back, look it over and make sure you understand what you missed and why you missed it. Did you misunderstand the directions? Did you run out of time? Did you study the wrong information? Whatever it was, learn from it and you will know how to prepare next time.
Good luck on your next test!