Overcome Test Taking Anxiety
Is test taking anxiety a main cause of stress for you? Test anxiety can rob you of your potential and the hard work you have done. These tips to overcoming test anxiety help you perform at your best when the pressure is on.
As a lecturer at university I see first-hand students who do the work but can't see to put it together on the day.
Many of these students have difficulty overcoming test anxiety.
Perhaps you thought you knew the material. You had studied diligently and done all the homework.
But then on the day of the exam, you froze up and your mind went blank.
The questions you thought you knew....well you just can't seem to remember them now.
Does this sound familiar? If so, then you may be experiencing test taking anxiety.
It's okay to feel nervous before an exam - you can use that stress in a positive way.
You can use the nervousness to rev yourself up and motivate yourself to do well in your exam.
But when that nervousness becomes so strong that you can't perform in a test or have difficulty remembering and concentrating, then you need to do something about your test anxiety.
What are some signs of test taking anxiety?
Most test anxiety is caused as a result of something that is stressful or feared.
Do you notice that your breathing speeds up. Perhaps your heart is pounding in your chest or you have sweaty palms.
These are all signs that test taking anxiety is affecting your body.
While the stress response and the kick that adrenaline can give you has served us well, it can fuel anxiety and and increase your worry.
"What happens if my mind goes blank?"
"What if I forget everything I studied?"
While these thoughts can stress you out, you can also get stressed out by what is going on in your body:
"Oh no, my hands are shaking" or "I think I am going to be sick"
The more that you focus on these thoughts or physical signs of test anxiety the more that you can increase your test anxiety...
It can be a vicious cycle!
How to overcome test taking anxiety
Test anxiety can be a real problem.
You know that you know all the work - but you can't put it into practice when you need it.
This can rob you of getting the results you deserve and give you a sense of helplessness.
There are a number of strategies for overcoming test anxiety.
Use the stress of the exam to plan your study well in advance. Rather than avoiding the stress and complaining about it, use the exam stress to plan and study.
By being proactive, rather than reactive, and you can overcome test anxiety.
Many students find that their test taking anxiety reduces when they develop regular study habits.
Don't cram the night before on a high octane mix of caffeine and adrenaline!
Systematic and regular study, with the correct study habits can create the expectation of doing well.
"What if I forget everything?" "What if the test is too hard?". Watch your "What if's" and develop your positive thinking habits.
By adopting positive thinking habits you can reduce your stress and the chance that negative thinking will send you into a spiral of increasing stress.
For example "I am not good at test taking" can be replaced with more realistic thinking such as "I have studied hard for this test and I am ready to do the best I can do".
I talk more about cognitive therapy for stress relief - which you can adapt to your exam situation.
OK...you are sweating before the exam, you might notice that your heart is pounding.
What are these symptoms of?
You may think they are symptoms of test anxiety...but did you know that these are the same physiological indicators of excitement.
One way to overcome test anxiety is to learn to reframe what is going on in your body as excitement (e.g. excited to show what you have learnt from all your hard study) rather than fear - this will help to reduce your test taking anxiety.
Developing relaxation strategies that you can use to reduce stress will increase your overall confidence to deal with stress.
These relaxation techniques can help to short circuit the stress response, and can reduce your test anxiety.
Another hat that I wear is that of a psychologist. I spend a lot of time with elite athletes who are working towards big competitions. Like them, you can have a suite of strategies to relax yourself and harness your focus for optimal performance.
It won't happen overnight, but with regular practice of strategies like various breathing exercises you can counter the stress response which can reduce test taking anxiety before or during the test.
Breathing exercises won't help you to go well in an exam if you haven't done the work!!! But with the right practice they should be able to reduce test anxiety.
I find that breathing exercises center me and give me a sense of control - the exact things you need to overcome test anxiety.
Overcoming test taking anxiety is similar to overcoming performance anxiety in which performance really counts and the pressure is on to do well.
Other types of performance anxiety include public speaking anxiety or going to an important interview.
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