How To Be An Effective Test Taker

How To Be An Effective Test Taker

Why "take a deep breath" is so important for test anxiety.
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We are about to enter the third week of school, and I know I already have quizzes and exams coming up in the near future. So, how do we manage the stress of an upcoming test without making ourselves sick in the process of studying and taking the exam? As far as keeping your immune system in check before the test, it is important to eat right, sleep and hydrate. Then when taking the test, the solution is pretty cliché: take a deep breath.

As a student who has struggled with test taking since middle school, I know the pre-test jitters and anxieties all too well. Even if I spend night after night in the library studying for a test one week in advance, I still sit down to take it, and immediately, my heart starts to race and my brain seems to go into full power mode.

Many times, I have come out of testing and felt really exhausted and sick. I started to wonder why I usually felt so awful after an exam, and I learned it has to do with your body's stress response. I have started to recognize ways that help me manage my stress toward tests to become an effective test taker, and I hope they will help you all too.

What is an effective test taker? To me, an effective test taker is someone who has prepared fairly well before the test and takes the test with a certain level of calmness. Remaining calm during a test is key to not stressing out so much and to staying healthy.

This semester, I am taking a Health and Wellness course, and we just learned about stress responses, adrenaline and cortisol. When you are in a stressful situation, your body responds by releasing the stress hormones – adrenaline, epinephrin and cortisol – to help you through the situation. But if you are often stressed, your body has high levels of these stress hormones constantly, and they directly affect your health, cortisol being the worst.

I say that cortisol is the worst of the three because it does not go away quickly as adrenaline does. It stays in your body when you are stressed, so chronic stress means you always have high levels of this hormone. Cortisol influences your heart rate, immune response, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. So, your immune system response is dampened, meaning it is easy for you to get sick.

A test is just the thing to increase your cortisol levels, but there are two steps you can take to manage your stress and lower the level of cortisol in your body when taking a test: one, take a deep breath; and two, change your posture. When you take a deep breath and change your posture, you increase circulation which in turn cleanses and gets rid of the cortisol.

Essentially, being an effective test taker is being good at managing your stress. There are so many ways to manage stress that are simple and easy such as yoga and exercise, just to name two. Hopefully, this article put into perspective how stress affects your body and your health and gives you a chance to study for and take your next test while managing your stress.

Cover Image Credit: http://bit.ly/2cyrkRX

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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Telling Me To 'Keep My Chin Up' Is Sweet But It's Not A Cure — There's No Easy Fix For Anxiety

It's really difficult to voice my true feelings about GAD, but here goes nothing!

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Having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be really difficult. It makes living out my daily life a struggle. Even if I'm having a "good day" on the outside, I could be imploding. I bet if you asked most people who know me, a good majority of them would have no idea that I struggle with mental health issues. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. It definitely means I'm good at hiding and covering up my true reactions and feelings.

I do the best I can to conceal my feelings because I hate burdening other people with my unnecessary worries. Inside, I let my worries spiral and spiral into what I call the "spin cycle." This happens when I have one troublesome thought that leads to another one and another one until the situation I've come up with is so unrealistic it seems like I'm having a really strange dream.

Most days, I'm not sure how to escape the spin cycle. But that's when I remember all the good I have going for me. I have family and friends who love me. I have a soon-to-be husband who adores me and would do anything for me. Most importantly, I have my heavenly father who will always take care of me. Who could ask for a better support system?

How can I be so worried when I have so much to be grateful for?

Ask my genes, DNA, and brain for the answer because I have no idea. As much as I want to say that every time I pray for lessened anxiety it goes away, that's just not how it works. God isn't a genie. We all have our personal struggles, and this is mine. It's not going away no matter what I do. Yes, there are things I can do to make it more bearable or to soften the crippling effects it has on my mind, body, and soul, but is there a perfect solution to make it go away? Absolutely not. I wish.

No matter what my external circumstances, my anxiety always has, does, and will run high. Sure, I have coping mechanisms and people who can help calm me down — everyone needs that kind of support system. However, I will never escape a mental illness unless there's a sudden miracle from God (which I will never exclude).

The weird thing about having a mental illness is that you can pass by as "normal" to most people most of the time. It's so strange that with most other illnesses you can see the physical difference, but with mental illnesses, people could know you for years but are in the dark about your generalized anxiety disorder. I'm around such supportive people that sometimes I wonder why I don't tell more people more often.

I'm afraid of being seen differently or stigmatized.

Bottom line is: I hate standing out. This introvert hates being the center of attention. Even more so, I don't want to make other people worry about me. I also don't want to be different from anyone else. It's so easy for people to tell people to just "not worry" or "chin up" when they don't understand how debilitating mental illnesses truly are.

I don't want to be told that my feelings are invalid or can be fixed in the blink of an eye. I've lived with GAD my whole life. Trust me: if there was an easy fix, I would've done it by now.

I'm not sure if I'm just ranting or becoming a part of the change for good...but I'd like to think I'm the latter. The more people who know about generalized anxiety disorder and mental illnesses, the better. I think those of us who struggle sometimes don't have the words to share exactly how we're feeling, and I'm not sure I've done a good job of sharing my own feelings through this article. You, dear reader, are the judge of that.

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