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Reduce Test Anxiety

A little anxiety before a test can improve your concentration and  alertness but excessive anxiety can lower your test scores.

Test anxiety can be caused by one or more of the following: procrastination; lack of sufficient preparation; and/or past bad experiences with formal testing situations.  There are two kinds of test anxiety: anticipatory and situational. Anticipatory test anxiety is when you feel anxious and upset about an upcoming test.  Situational test anxiety occurs when you sit down for the test, and is characterized by mental and physical discomfort. Based on which form of test anxiety you suffer from, there are a variety of techniques to combat it.

If you have anticipatory test anxiety--Preparation will set you free! Preparing for a test is a constant process, and requires vigilance.

1. Look for main points in lecture. If your professor writes it on the board or repeats it, it's important.
2. Review your notes every time you finish class. Mentally walk through key points made, and write down any questions you have for your professors.
3. Create a study plan for each and every test. Use your syllabus to map out your tests so you know exactly when they are scheduled.
4. Create note cards that have key points or difficult concepts that you can carry around and review when you get a free moment. You can also use these as you sit in class on the day of the test before your teacher hands it out to get a last minute refresher in.
5. Cramming: try to avoid it, but if you need to do it, see the linked document on cramming techniques.
6. Get enough sleep and eat breakfast! Don't pull an all-nighter right before the test. You want to enter your test alert and focused so you have the best possible chance for success.


If you have situational test anxiety--relaxation methods are more important to keep you calm and focused.

1. The test gets passed out, and you start to hyperventilate, your heart races, your palms get sweaty...sound familiar?
-This is your nervous system reacting to the immediate threat of the test. It's your body's fight or flight response, and it happens when you face a very stressful situation. It's an automatic response, but if you can stop just one part of it, you can stop the whole process!

2. What to do: turn the test over, do some deep breathing
-Breathe from your diaphragm, slow and steady. Your stomach should rise up (instead of your shoulders) when you do this.
-See the "How to do Deep Breathing Exercises" document (link below) for a more detailed explanation.
-Why does it work? It stops the fight or flight response! If you counteract one piece, you stop the entire process.
-In addition, it will give your brain more oxygen, which then helps to release "calming" neuro-chemicals, which stops the rest of the

anxiety response.

3. When you feel calm again, you can turn the test back over and begin. Stop yourself when you start to feel anxious throughout the test,
and do some breathing again.

 

Taking the test:

1. Stay positive!
2. Scan the test, identify easy/moderate/hard items or sections. Start with the easy ones.
3. Budget your time--be realistic.


Post-test:

1. Congratulate yourself on finishing it and doing your best!
2.
Focus on what you did right, use what you got wrong as a learning opportunity.
3. If you can, keep your tests for use as study guides for the next test.

We hope that these tips help! The trick through all of this is to set yourself up for success the best you can, and to stay positive about it.

 

How to take Multiple Choice Exams 

Cramming 

Deep Breathing and Muscle Relaxation 

QuickLinks

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