How to deal with Test Anxiety

Finals are coming up, and everyone is frantically studying for finals to raise their grades. The problem is that although students study very hard, they don’t think of how to change their approach towards the tests. What I mean by this is not exactly test strategies, but your attitude of the test. Overcoming test anxiety for me was not resolved within a day, so don’t expect sudden results. Instead, it was a gradual process of experimenting and contemplating what was the most effective method to minimize test anxiety.          

Before the test, the most helpful way to minimize test anxiety is to be actually prepared for the test. I don’t mean cramming all the studying within a night before the test and winging the test. Instead, I mean studying over a course of a week or two for the final so it is spaced out. By properly planning your studying and reviewing more than once, you will feel less nervous during the test. You can print out a monthly calendar and dedicate x amount of hours each day for a particular subject. It is better if you specify which time of the day you study. I have studied a few tests within 1-2 days and it gave me a lot of anxiety because I believed that I didn’t live up to my potential.        

On the day of the test, a good start to lower test anxiety is to practice meditation. I used a Headspace session that helped me calm down my nerves on the test. For 10 minutes, I would take deep breaths and practice noting by labeling my thoughts as thinking and emotions as feelings. Another reason the session was helpful was that the guide would remind me that “You have done all the studying you can, and all the information is in your head.” This phrase sounds trite because everyone tells you that on test day, but it was a gentle reminder.         

Before I go into the testing room, I would write down a test procedure that would have two components: strategy and attitude. For the attitude, I would write down on paper that all I can do is try my best. Not only that, I would write some encouraging words on the front of the test. Another thing I wrote was to accept the possibility of failure. This may sound counterintuitive, but the most common reason people bomb on a test is that they force themselves to do well because they don’t accept the possibility of the other outcome. Considering the fact there is a possibility I don’t do well, I think about the worst-case scenario in the long run. Is it true I will not get into college because I got a B on the final? No, there are other future opportunities to prove my academic preparedness. For example, I can show improvement in the second semester or do well on a standardized test to compensate for an A- on my first-semester transcript. Also, I am open to the idea of failure because it will help me learn from my mistakes so I know how to improve on tests in the future. Of course, I am not telling you guys to fail your tests. Instead, I am suggesting you to not pressure yourself that you must get an A on the final because it might work against you. If you catch yourself over exaggerating the importance of the final, ask yourself this question. How many tests will you take in the future of your life? Assuming that you graduate from college, you will probably take hundreds of tests of the future. Your subject final is one of the many tests you will take in your life, and frankly speaking, you won’t even remember what you got 10 years later.          

Another key attitudinal change that I implemented was being mindful while I took the exam. Some of you may roll your eyes because mindfulness is now the current craze because it is believed to be the solution to all of your problems. To be honest, mindfulness is what helped me focus on the SAT and improve my SAT score significantly in the English section. Nowadays, most students go on Rogerhub to calculate what score they need to get on the final in order to get their desired final grade. I am not against using Rogerhub, but using this calculator all the time makes students focus a lot more on the outcome of the test, NOT being present in the moment. By being mindful, you will focus on the contents of the test, not on the future of whether I get x% on the test. Also, you will do better on the test because you will be more attentive to the silly mistakes you made on a math test or the writing errors you made on an essay.          

In short, test anxiety is an important component for performing well on the test. Although we can’t eliminate test anxiety completely, we can minimize the impact it has on us on the test by being mindful, improving our focus, and changing our attitude about the test. When you change your mindset, the results will show.  

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