There comes a time during the academic school year that is quite daunting: the “End of Course” test. You have studied, learned the material, and aced all of your homework assignments, projects, and papers related to that test. You even feel confident about this day, but when the moment finally arrives, you have heart palpitations, sweaty palms, nausea, headaches, and suddenly you forget all the knowledge you’ve retained throughout the year. “How did this anxiety sneak up on me like this?”
A student can be extremely bright and intelligent but may not test well due to a fear of failure, so they suffer test anxiety. This is a type of performance anxiety that stems from a fear of failure, which interferes with one’s ability to recall memorized information and also the ability to perform well on a test. Those with test anxiety often inundate their minds with negative—and untrue—thoughts such as, “I’m not smart enough to pass this test,” “I know I’m going to fail, I can’t remember anything.” Although it is natural to experience nervousness before a test, those with test anxiety suffer nervousness to the highest degree. Along with the physiological reactions mentioned above, they also deal with diarrhea, shortness of breath, and light-headedness. It can even go far as having a full-on panic attack.
If you suffer from test anxiety, here are several ways to combat it…and pass that exam!
Prepare wisely. We all know the golden rule: get a full night’s sleep before a test and eat a fortified breakfast to wake up your brain. But here are some other effective helpers:
- Study in a calm state of mind. If you study with nervousness, you will test with nervousness and will not perform well as a result.
- Actually learn the information rather than merely memorizing it. Learning the material will help you connect to it more and recollection goes a lot smoother while taking the test! Memorization is good, but chances are you will forget what you locked in your memory right after you take the test.
- Study groups will forever be helpful! Other peers will help you see the course material from various perspectives, which will help deepen your understanding of the topic.
- Don’t cram! Cramming causes most people to perform worse.
Positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are capable and intelligent, that you are bigger than this test, that you will study effectively and be prepared. It is easy to give in to self-doubt in such a high-pressure situation. But negative self-talk breeds the heavy insecurity that impacts our ability to test well. The more positivity you feed to your mind, the better you will perform. Speak positive outcomes and believe what you say and watch it become reality: “I will pass this test…I will remember what I learned…I am intelligent and I know the answers…I am calm and confident about this exam.”
Relaxation strategies. Learn how to meditate and practice positive imagery (visualizing calm and stimulating scenery). Practice deep breathing to diminish any anxieties you have. If you believe in the power of prayer, pray, pray, and pray that you will remain calm and perform well on testing day!
Watch your health! When stressing about a big test, we tend to neglect our physical health, which causes even more stress. Remember to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and get adequate sleep. This is paramount for maintaining a healthy body and brain! (Pro tip: no caffeine during studying or right before a test. Caffeine is an anxiety inducer. Opt for peppermint tea instead!)
Stay relaxed during the test. A relaxed brain can recall information faster and more efficiently. Take your time, ask questions, and stop and breathe if you have to. Stay focused! Watch your pace, and please don’t focus on how quickly others seem to be flying through the test with ease. Those who finish before you won’t necessarily score higher than you will.
Remember, nervous energy is a motivator! Nervousness is only a sign that we want to do well. So, instead of feeling like we’re going to fail, we should channel that same energy into helping us do our best.
Even if you don’t perform as well as you wanted, just remember: a simple test grade doesn’t reflect your intelligence or self-worth. A test grade is simply an indicator of confidence, of how much you really believe in yourself.