Lots of students suffer from test anxiety. The symptoms can be slight to severe and consist of both mental and physical manifestations. If you have a case of test anxiety, you may feel anxious, worried, or overwhelmed. You dread the impending exam and feel hopeless. Anxiety can cause headache, loss of sleep, or worsening of existing conditions like asthma and high blood pressure. Nervousness about the test can cause you to forget, become confused, or experience muddled thinking – the exact opposite of ideal test-taking conditions.
So what can you do to get over a case of test anxiety? Being prepared for the exam is probably the best and most obvious preventative measure, but often times lack of preparation isn’t the underlying cause of test anxiety. You can take proactive steps to deal with your nervousness.
See Yourself Doing Well
Picture yourself moving through the test with ease. Imagine that you can answer the questions without hesitation. Also, eliminate negative thinking and negative people. Telling yourself you don’t know what you’re doing and that you’re sure to fail the class will only cause you more stress. Likewise, listening to the doom and gloom of others is sure to affect your own mood. Stephanie, of Not Just Surviving, talks about this and more in her article on test anxiety.
Be In the Moment
Be in the here and now. Feel yourself sitting in your chair, focus on the paper in front of you. Try not to let your mind wander to the negative and fearful thoughts you might have. By taking purposeful measure to notice your surroundings, you’ll be sharpening your focus, leading to better performance.
Consider the Worst
What if you haven’t prepared well for a particular exam? It happens. Think of the worst-case scenario. Will you fail the class? What if you do fail? It’s likely you can retake the course, maybe in the summer. Repeated exposure to material often makes it easier to comprehend. Doing poorly on a test or in a class isn’t the end of your academic career.
Take a Deep Breath
Taking deep, cleansing breaths is a great way to calm the nerves. If you feel yourself getting tense, take a moment to just breathe away the tension. Inhale deeply, being mindful to breathe from your diaphragm, keeping your shoulders still. Hold the breath a moment, then exhale slowly. You’re likely to feel much calmer almost immediately.
Go Somewhere Else
Guided imagery works well for some people. Picture yourself in one of your favorite places or somewhere you’d love to go. This exercise can help you to relax and take yourself temporarily out of your current state of anxiety.
If you’re feeling tension in a particular part of your body, go ahead and tense up or clench that body part. Then let go of the tension. Releasing the physical tension can lead to letting go of the emotional anxiety as well.
If none of this works, talk to someone. You can start with your adviser who can provide you with resources or enroll you in a study skills course. Some people have such intense fear of test-taking that they need to seek professional counseling. Please do so, if you think you may be one of these people.
Test anxiety doesn’t have to ruin your life, nor does it have to control you. You can take charge by using whichever of these proactive strategies works for you. Best of luck!