It’s the day of the test…
Your palms are sweaty. Your chest feels constricted. The bile begins to rise in your throat. Still, you wait anxiously outside the test room. Even though you know the material, the idea of taking this test throws you into a panic. You just know that this is going to be a disaster.
Does any of this sound familiar? This doesn’t have to be your reality when it comes to test time. Feelings of apprehension, uncertainty and fear can be replaced by a calm, determined, positive demeanour – one that looks forward to the challenge of the test.
Don’t stress! Help is available, whether your anxiety is:
- anticipatory: you have feelings of dread leading up to the test or
- situational: your performance is impaired by anxiety while sitting the test
The 6 Keys to Banish Test Anxiety
These will prepare you to face the test challenge head-on (without feeling like you’re about to puke!)
(1) Take Good Care of Yourself: Research has confirmed that getting a sufficient amount of rest is the single most important lifestyle factor in getting better test scores.
- Exercise has also been shown to enhance the brain’s memory centres, as well as having a calming effect and releasing feel-good endorphins. Taking a workout an hour before your test is a smart move – it will leave you feeling in charge both physically and mentally.
- In the month leading up to the test, ensure that you are taking in quality nutrition. If you snack while studying, make sure that you are taking in foods that will boost your brain (omega-3 anyone?), rather than make you feel lethargic.
(2) Remind Yourself of the Big Picture: Putting the test in perspective will help you to control your anxiety.
- One test does not define you – it’s just another rung on your educational ladder. Of course, this does not mean that you should take the test lightly
- You must also study and prepare for the test
(3) Use Specific Strategies During the Test:
- Do a memory dump on the back page of the test paper where you pour out all the things that you have been memorising
- Carefully and slowly read the directions. Underline keywords
- Start with the easiest questions first to build confidence – just remember to go back and do all of the others later
- Stay focused on you – don’t allow your mind to think about others taking the test and how easy it looks for them
- Divide the test paper into small manageable parts
(4) Stop the Negative Self-Talk: When we see a question that looks difficult, it’s very easy for our brains to start running down a negative road – “I cant do this, I’m going to fail the test, I’ll fail this paper”
- To put a halt to this you have to distract your mind. Implement a diversion immediately.
- A good technique that works for me is mentally naming things in alphabetical order. A is Apple, B is Bicycle, etc. Keep going. Within 15-20 seconds you will have regained your composure and rid yourself of the fear and anxiety caused by the imposing question.
(5) Practice Calming Strategies During the Test: The few seconds utilised during the test to stay cool, calm and collected will be well worth it.
- After 45 minutes, put your pen down
- Perform 3 forward and backward shoulder rolls
- Place a hand on your stomach and breathe in and out slowly for 3-5 seconds
- Tense and refocus the muscles in your hands and feet for 3-5 seconds
- Take a swig of water and a small protein snack (if permitted)
- Now refocus for the next block of 45 minutes
(6) Give Yourself a Post-Test Reward: You don’t yet know how well you’ve done, but you’ve completed the test to the best of your ability. That in itself is an achievement worth celebrating!
- So take some time away from the subject (even if it’s just one day)
- Go to a movie or buy yourself that new novel you’ve been wanting
- The next day, do a mini self-analysis (reflection) on your test performance:
Did you give yourself enough study time? Were your anxiety control measures successful? Did you manage your time effectively?
Use your answers as feed-forward for your next test prep session. That way you will constantly improve and further banish the curse of test anxiety from controlling you and impacting negatively on your study efforts.