Put your test-taking worries to bed for good
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in class or at your computer on the day of a big exam with your mind racing and your palms sweating. You rack your brain in an effort to recall everything you thought you’d learned, but you keep drawing a blank.
Feeling nervous before a test is totally normal and, in fact, has the potential to help you focus better on the task at hand. However, those of us who suffer from test anxiety feel much more than the usual jitters at the thought of taking a test. This form of anxiety can be crippling and humiliating for many. Unfortunately, if you don’t learn how to overcome test anxiety, it can ultimately affect your grades and your overall self-esteem.
Don’t start to feel hopeless just yet!
I’m going to lay out five proven strategies that can assist you in centering your mind and increasing your test performance to get your test anxiety under control once and for all.
Rationally, we know that studying consistently is the only way to learn, understand, and retain the material. However, if we’re being honest with ourselves, most study habits are ineffective and are not geared towards long-term information retention.
Your ability to cram everything in the night before might be excellent. You may even be able to repeat your material word for word by bedtime, but by the time you wake up the next morning, your ability to recall what you’ve learned is seriously diminished.
Study habits are the systems and routines that you utilize to help you learn the material over time.
Creating healthy study habits is absolutely essential to stopping your test anxiety in its tracks. When you invest in understanding smaller segments of the information every day, your grasp of the concepts you need to master will solidify in your mind. Your capacity for drawing on this understanding in the future will increase dramatically. This makes it much easier to recall information when you’re stressed, feeling overwhelmed or anxious on the day of your test.
2.) Develop a pre-test routine.
There are no set rules on what your pre-test routine has to look like, but it’s imperative that you develop a routine that works for you. A pre-test routine encompasses a set of planned actions that you do in order to help you to feel prepared and confident when the clock starts ticking down.
You might want to consider:
- Eating a light meal the morning or afternoon of the test
- Meditating for 10 to 15 minutes right before you start
- Going for a short walk half an hour before you begin
- Reviewing flashcards one last time
- Putting on your lucky shoes or finding a keepsake that will instill confidence in you if you encounter any doubts along the way
Ensure that you have a set space in your house if you’re taking your test in your home and be sure to keep it clean and uncluttered with distractions. This should be a no-phone-zone and all social media should be off when you’re studying or in your exam.
While social platforms can be reaffirming and might seem like they calm your nerves, social media has serious anxiety-inducing tendencies and can be counterproductive in your attempts to curb the stress.
You can use apps such as Freedom to block social media on your laptop so that you don’t get the craving to refresh your newsfeed when you’re in the zone.
Whatever your pre-test routine encompasses, make sure you follow it to the best of your ability each time you take a test to make you more comfortable and to allow you to feel in control of your own time and schedule. Building healthy routines around test time works to shape our mindset and reinforces the fact that there is no need to panic or rush.
3.) Utilize relaxation techniques.
Just like your pre-test routine, the relaxation techniques that you use are totally dependent on what works for you. Each person will respond to what they feel fits best into their lifestyle and preferences so the main point is that you need to try out a range of techniques until you find one that calms your mind and allows you to tap into your memory bank when you need to.
Some options of tried and tested techniques are:
- Deep and concentrated breathing
- Yoga and/or meditation
- Light exercise
- Sitting in a calm and quiet place to slow your heart rate
- Listening to calming music
There are even special frequencies that you can listen to on your preferred streaming platform that have been created specifically for relaxation and calming your mind. Listening to binaural beats, when you hear two slightly different frequencies in each ear, allows your brain to sync to one beat and has been proven to reduce anxiety and increase focus.
It’s important to understand that practicing relaxation techniques before a test doesn’t mean putting yourself to sleep.
These techniques are geared towards honing your focus and opening your mind and should leave you feeling rejuvenated and engaged.
4.) Prioritize consistent sleep.
Sleep is one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal to fight test anxiety.
The world we live in makes it so easy to run ourselves ragged until we’re burned out. You’ll need to learn to prioritize your sleep health or run the risk of becoming sluggish, having trouble focusing, and ultimately suffering from exhaustion.
Studies have shown that people who consistently get the recommended amount of sleep every night perform better on tests, have a more positive outlook, and have decreased mental health challenges.
While the amount of sleep you require differs for each person, if you’re a healthy young adult or adult you should be getting 7 to 9 hours on average per night to function at maximum capacity.
A rested mind is a calm mind and if you’re exhausted, your mind does tend to wander to stressful thoughts. It might seem like you’re getting less study time in if you cut your day short but a few hours of productive work is always better than a full day of half-baked attempts at cramming in information.
5.) Talk to a professional.
There is absolutely no shame in having to ask a counselor, a teacher, or someone else who you trust for help with your anxiety.
Speaking with someone about your thoughts and feelings can be invaluable in your mission to abolish your test anxiety.
Many schools have counseling programs for students who need a little extra help, and most teachers have office hours where they can answer questions and soothe your fears about unknown material.
There are also online anxiety coaches who specialize in helping students overcome test anxiety. An anxiety coach can help you to assess where your fears are coming from and will use their expert knowledge to suggest strategies and techniques like the ones I’ve provided to help you to move past your anxiety and train your mind and body to take tests confidently.
Don’t ignore your testing anxiety in the hopes that it will disappear!
If you need someone to support you through your challenges, using proven strategies to help you to learn your material and feel more confident in your test-taking abilities, I can help.
As a working tutor, I’m always available to my students in order to help them with anything that might get in the way of their academic success.
You don’t have to struggle alone or in silence. It’s my pleasure to empower your confidence!