Most students experience some level of anxiety during an exam; however, when anxiety affects exam performance it has become a problem.
General preparation/building confidence:
Review your personal situation and skills
Academic counselors can help you in these areas:
- Developing good study habits and strategies
- Managing time (dealing with procrastination, distractions, laziness)
- Organizing material to be studied and learned
Take a step by step approach to build a strategy and not get overwhelmed:
- Outside pressures success / failure consequences (grades, graduation), peer pressure, competitiveness, etc.
- Reviewing your past performance on tests to improve and learn from experience
Test preparation to reduce anxiety:
- Approach the exam with confidence. Use whatever strategies you can to personalize success: visualization, logic, talking to yourself, practice, team work, journaling, etc. View the exam as an opportunity to show how much you've studied and to receive a reward for the studying you've done
- Be prepared! Learn your material thoroughly and organize what materials you will need for the test. Use a checklist
- Choose a comfortable location for taking the test with good lighting and minimal distractions
- Allow yourself plenty of time, especially to do things you need to do before the test and still get there a little early
- Avoid thinking you need to cram just before
- Strive for a relaxed state of concentration
- Avoid speaking with any fellow students who have not prepared, who express negativity, who will distract your preparation
- A program of exercise is said to sharpen the mind
- Get a good night's sleep the night before the exam
- Don't go to the exam with an empty stomach. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress. Stressful foods can include processed foods, artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, sugar, white flour products, chips and similar snack foods, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices
- Take a small snack, or some other nourishment to help take your mind off of your anxiety.
Avoid high sugar content (candy) which may aggravate your condition
- During the test read the directions carefully, budget your test taking time, change positions to help you relax, if you go blank, skip the question and go on, if you're taking an essay test and you go blank on the whole test, pick a question and start writing. It may trigger the answer in your mind and don't panic when students start handing in their papers. There's no reward for being the first done
If you find yourself tensing and getting anxious during the test:
- Relax, you are in control. Take slow, deep breaths
- Don't think about the fear
- Pause and think about the next step and keep on task, step by step:
- Use positive reinforcement for yourself
- Acknowledge that you have done, and are doing, your best
- Expect some anxiety:
- It's a reminder that you want to do your best and can provide energy. Just keep it manageable
- Realize that anxiety can be a "habit" and that it takes practice to use it as a tool to succeed
After the test, review how you did:
- List what worked, and hold onto these strategies. It does not matter how small the items are. They are building blocks to success
- List what did not work for improvement
- Celebrate that you are on the road to overcoming this obstacle
- Check out local centers and resources in your school for assistance!
- If you are aware that you have a problem with test anxiety, be sure your teacher or instructor knows before any testing begins (and not the hour before!).
- There may be other options to evaluate your knowledge or performance within the subject matter.
- When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course material or perform certain tasks. Successful test taking avoids carelessness.
- Examples of objective tests are true-false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank.
- Examples of subjective texts are short answer, essay, or oral exams
- If you have any doubts about the fairness of tests, or of the ability of tests to measure your performance, please see your academic counseling service.
These suggestions may help you avoid careless errors:
- Analyze your past test results. Each test can further prepare you for the next test. Use your tests to review when studying for final exams
- Arrive early for tests
- Bring all the materials you will need such as pencils and pens, a calculator, a dictionary, and a watch. This helps you focus on the task at hand
- Be comfortable but alert
- Choose a good spot and make sure you have enough room to work, maintain comfortable posture but don't "slouch"
- Stay relaxed and confident
- Remind yourself that you are well-prepared and are going to do well. If you find yourself anxious, take several slow, deep breaths to relax
- Don't talk about the test to other students just before it; anxiety is contagious
- Test Taking:
- Read the directions carefully. This may be obvious, but it will help you avoid careless errors. If there is time, quickly look through the test for an overview. Note key terms, jot down brief notes
- Answer questions in a strategic order:
- First easy questions to build confidence, score points, and mentally orient yourself to vocabulary, concepts, and your studies (it may help you make associations with more difficult questions)
- Then difficult questions or those with the most point value. With objective tests, first eliminate those answers you know to be wrong, or are likely to be wrong, don't seem to fit, or where two options are so similar as to be both incorrect. With essay/subjective questions, broadly outline your answer and sequence the order of your points
- Resist the urge to leave as soon as you have completed all the items
- Review your test to make sure that you have answered all questions, not mismarked the answer sheet, or made some other simple mistake
- Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, decimal points, etc.
- Change answers to questions if you originally misread them or if you have encountered information elsewhere in the test that indicates that your first choice is incorrect
- Decide on and adopt study strategies that worked best for you
- Identify those that didn't work well and replace them.