6 Tips for Defeating Test Anxiety
Today’s the day. You’ve attended classes, taken notes and studied up. Now, it’s time for your big exam. Although you’ve prepared, your palms start to sweat as you walk to the classroom. Your heart thumps in your chest. What if the test doesn’t go well? What if you sit down and your mind goes blank?
It’s normal to feel a little nervous about a test, but if you regularly experience serious symptoms despite being prepared, you may have test anxiety. This anxiety can make it hard to focus and can negatively impact your performance on the test. Here are some tips and tricks you can try to combat test anxiety.
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Practice meditation or mindfulness
Before the exam, find some time to be alone and center yourself. Meditation has a host of benefits. It’s successfully used to treat many mental disorders including ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Even if it’s just five minutes, taking time to slow down and focus your energy can make your test anxiety evaporate. Sit quietly, feel your own breathing and try to keep your mind blank. If thoughts or worries crop up, acknowledge them and then bring your attention back to your breathing. If you’ve never practiced mindfulness before, a meditation app and some earbuds can help you get started.
Get plenty of quality sleep
Though you might be tempted to stay up late studying the night before an exam, it’s important to shut things down at a reasonable time and get some sleep. This will ensure you have plenty of energy the next day as you head into the test and help you stay focused. A lack of sleep can also increase feelings of anxiety – definitely something to avoid if you’re already prone to test anxiety.
Eat a balanced breakfast
When you wake up from your full night of sleep, don’t forget to fuel up before you head to the classroom. Eat something that will keep you full, but avoid anything too heavy. Look for high levels of protein and fiber – a breakfast burrito with eggs and veggies is a great option. While you might be looking for an energy boost right before the test, be sure not to overload on sugar or caffeine. These can exacerbate your nervousness.
Burn off nervous energy
Exercise can also help calm your nerves. If you’re on a large campus, leave early and enjoy your surroundings on your walk to the test. If that doesn’t help, consider a more vigorous activity like going for a short jog or doing some crunches and squats before you leave. Expelling some of your physical energy can help you feel calmer and less jittery while you’re sitting still during the exam.
Manage your time
When you start, read the directions, do a full scan of the exam, and read the directions a second time. Then think about how much time you should allocate to each section. Don’t get hung up on a difficult question early on. Instead, start by finding a few questions you know you can ace and complete those first. This will give you a confidence boost to make it through the tougher parts. Focus on your own work and try to block out what others are doing, especially as people start finishing their exams. Keep your own pace and trust your own ability.
Be kind to yourself
A little nervousness during a test is okay. The adrenaline can drive you to do your best work and complete the exam on time. The important thing is not to let your nerves take over. After one or two bad test experiences, some students fall into a pattern of negative self-talk. During a test, thoughts like “I always freeze up during exams” and “I never remember what I study” can create a self-fulfilling prophecy and cause you to perform poorly. If you notice this pattern in yourself, intentionally replace those thoughts with affirmations such as “I’m well prepared for this test” and “I feel calm and ready to do my best.” Even if they don’t feel 100% true in the moment, they can become true with practice.
Even some of the best students experience test anxiety. It’s not a reflection on your academic ability or your intelligence. If you struggle with test anxiety, simple acts like meditating, sleeping well and managing your time can help combat it. Trust yourself, do your best and treat yourself with kindness if you have a setback or two. With practice, you’ll be heading into every test with confidence!