Most students experience some level of anxiety during an exam; however, when anxiety affects exam performance it has become a problem. General preparation and confidence building is important and academic counselors can help. They can assist students with such things as developing good study habits and strategies, effective time management and how to properly organize material that needs to be studied and learned.
It’s important to be able to teach students to take a step by step approach to building a strategy and to not get overwhelmed. Outside pressures like the stress of success or failure, peer pressure and competitiveness can be minimized. Learning from reviewing past test performances can make a difference as well. For more information see our State Test Magic Pep Talk.
Test Preparation Tips for Students
- Approach the exam with confidence. Use whatever strategies you can to personalize success like visualization, logic, talking to yourself, practice, team work and journaling. View the exam as an opportunity to show how much you've studied.
- Be prepared! Learn your material thoroughly and organize what materials you'll 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.
- Avoid thinking you need to cram just before.
- Strive for a relaxed state of concentration.
- Avoid speaking with any fellow students who haven't prepared, who express negativity or who will distract your preparation.
- 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 to help take your mind off of your anxiety. Avoid high sugar candy which may aggravate your condition.
- If you go blank on a question, skip it and move on. You can always come back to it.
- Don't panic when students start handing in their papers. There's no reward for being the first done.
If students find themselves 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're 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, students should review how they did:
- List what worked, and hold onto these strategies. It doesn't matter how small the items are. They're building blocks to success.
- List what didn't work for improvement.
- Celebrate that you're on the road to overcoming this obstacle.
Suggestions that Help Students Avoid Careless Errors
- Analyze your past test results. Each test can prepare you for the next one. Use your tests to review when studying for final exams.
- Arrive early for tests.
- Bring all the materials you'll need such as pencils and pens, a calculator, a dictionary, and a watch.
- 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're 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; anxiety is contagious.
- Test Taking:
- Read the directions carefully. This may be obvious, but it will help you avoid careless errors. If there's time, quickly look through the test for an overview. Note key terms and jot down brief notes.
- Answer questions in a strategic order:
- Answer easy questions first to build confidence, score points, and mentally orient yourself to vocabulary, concepts, and your studies.
- With objective tests, first eliminate those answers you know to be wrong. With essay 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've answered all questions, not mismarked the answer sheet, or made some other simple mistake.
- Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, decimal points, etc.
- Only change answers to questions if you originally misread them or if you've encountered information elsewhere in the test that indicates that your first choice is incorrect.