Don't let the idea of a big exam get the best of you. Examinations are almost always stressful. Students rarely know exactly what to expect on the test, and those who suffer from exam fear or exam anxiety can see their grades suffer as a result of this stress. A little anxiety can actually help your performance, but some students become so overwhelmed that they "seize up" and forget what they have studied. Exam anxiety can strike before, during and after a test. Battling this type of performance anxiety can be difficult, but good study habits and effective relaxation techniques can help.
Develop good study habits. Proper study habits and preparation are the keys to cutting out exam fear. Avoid last-minute "cramming" for exams and actively listen while in class. Know when the tests are coming up and prepare in advance; do not study all night or otherwise procrastinate. Keep your mind and body healthy by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising. Healthier people who are well-rested often do better on exams, and sacrificing the basics even in the short-term can have negative consequences on performance.
Meet with your instructor to aid in focusing your study sessions. Knowing what the test will cover helps you zone in on the important material. Ask if a practice test is available so you have an idea of what to expect. If you are well-prepared, you will feel more confident and less stressed for the exam.
Practice positive self-talk as you prepare for the test. Create a mantra to help you calm your test anxiety. Repeat a phrase, such as, "I just need to do my best," or "I am prepared for this test." Push back against negative thoughts that creep into your mind. If you tell yourself you're going to fail, remind yourself that you participated actively in class and studied so you won't fail. Often, people who suffer from exam anxiety cannot shut out negative thoughts or emotions about the test, and this can contribute to feeling more anxiety than is normal.
Nourish Your Mind and Body
Relax the night before your test. A last-minute review can help you remember facts, but fretting over last-minute studying is likely to cause you more anxiety. If you prepared thoroughly, relax by distracting yourself with a television show or a good book. Beat the morning rush by waking up early. Give yourself time to eat a nutritious breakfast that won't weigh you down or feel greasy in your stomach. Check your bag to ensure you have everything you need for the test. Get to the room early so you can take your seat and organize yourself. Manage your anxiety with relaxation exercises as you wait for the test to start. Breathe deeply, visualizing negative energy leaving your body as you exhale. Close your eyes and imagine yourself calmly taking the test. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine; this traditional study aid can exacerbate anxiety in many people.
Analyze Test Questions
Scan the test to find questions that are easy. Answer those test questions to give yourself a confidence boost. You can see progress and find that you do know the information. If you get stuck on a multiple choice question, cross off answers you know aren't correct. Compare the remaining answers to find the best fit.
Ask for Help
Understand that you are not alone and ask for help as necessary. Exam fear is normal. When that anxiety severely interferes with your ability to take the test, however, outside help might be needed. Ask your teachers and family for support and help. Special testing accommodations may be available that can reduce the stress.
Reward yourself after the test is over. Head to your favorite restaurant, share a pizza with your friends or take the day off from homework and studying. The reward gives you the break you deserve after all of your studying. Treating yourself also helps you stop thinking about the test and analyzing every little mistake you may have made.
- Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine; this traditional study aid can exacerbate anxiety in many people.
Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.