One of the most common forms of anxiety for students in both college and high school is test-taking anxiety. Most students will agree that they have experienced anxiety before, during, or after taking a test. For some students, they may experience intense anxiety which can present itself through panic attacks, fainting, sweating, or feeling sick. For any student who is experiencing extreme anxiety, you should consider either seeing a counselor or, if you're in college, going to student disability services to be diagnosed for test anxiety.
However, there are a few strategies you can use to eliminate test anxiety if it isn't too extreme. Here are 10 different strategies that you can use to help eliminate your test anxiety.
1. Try exercising beforehand
Many students don't realize how helpful exercise can be for eliminating stress. I actually tried exercising for 30 minutes a few hours before taking my test, and it did appear to alleviate some of my stress. So if you have the time, try going on a quick walk outside before taking your exam.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
Generally, you should avoid any foods that are fatty or contain any sugar before taking your test. Food that is high in fat or sugar can increase anxiety. This also applies to caffeine or sugary beverages. According to the Test Prep Review, the best foods to eat before an exam are light high-protein meals such as toast with peanut butter, tuna, chicken breast, or others. Anything with nuts or eggs will also have pack tons of protein, which can help give you energy before an exam.
3. Take a moment to stop and breathe
This is one of the most important things to consider when managing test anxiety. Often when you start feeling anxiety during a test, you forget to breathe. This can cause your heart rate to speed up, which then causes you to panic. Whether you're in the middle of answering a question or not, stop for one moment and close your eyes. Then slowly breathe in, count to seven, and then breathe out counting to seven. Continue doing this until you feel calm. This will help not only slow down your heart rate, but it will also help eliminate any anxiety.
4. Make sure to study enough beforehand
If you don't prepare beforehand for the test, you're likely going to increase the chances of getting anxiety while taking it. Make sure to plan to study for the test in advance! What I tend to do is study at least a week in advance or more depending on how difficult the content may be. The more prepared you are for the test, the more confident you will be while taking it!
5. Get to class early
Try to get to class early for the exam. Getting to your class early will allow you time to try to focus on relaxing before the test. It's also extremely helpful with being able to talk to any other students. You can also talk with your professor if they show up early for class, ask questions, or express any concerns. Generally, getting to class early before a test is a perfect strategy to use for combating test-taking anxiety!
6. Stop negative thoughts
The biggest part of test anxiety is that you fill yourself with negative thoughts that are centered around the test. You may think "I can't do this," or "I'm going to fail." Don't allow negative thoughts to take control of your mindset! Instead, replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts so that you can change your attitude about your performance on the test.
7. Don't obsess over the time
The worst thing that you can do is start obsessing over how much time you have left on the exam. This is something that I often find myself doing, especially if I'm taking a timed test. You should still check the time periodically, but don't obsess over keeping track of how much time you have. This can lead to you running out of time since you won't be able to complete any of the questions on your exam. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on completing the questions, skipping the ones that you aren't sure about, and coming back to any questions that you skipped.
8. Focus on guided imagery
What always helps with my anxiety is picturing myself somewhere where I feel the most relaxed. It's good to take a moment before the test to picture yourself somewhere else such as the beach, coffee shop, or at a vacation spot. As long as it's somewhere that relaxes you the most, it will help eliminate any anxiety.
9. Talk to your professor
If all else fails, try to talk to your professor. Tell them about your anxiety. They may offer advice or accommodations if you're anxiety isn't severe enough to be diagnosed by a counselor or student disability services.
10. Don't let your grade define you
Lastly but most importantly, never let your performance on the test define who you are as a person! Test anxiety can relate to judgment over your performance on a test defining who you are as a person. You should never let a test score measure your capability! Before you go to take a test, remind yourself that it is just a test and that your entire future is not completely dependent on it. Even if you fail the test or fail a class, there are still other ways that you can work around the obstacle such as retake the class, find a tutor, or talk to the professor.
If you begin to feel like your test anxiety is starting to take a toll on your performance in your classes, try these strategies to help manage it. I have always struggled with test anxiety, and it really can make things seem harder in college. Following these strategies can help lessen or eliminate your test anxiety, which can help lead to a more successful college experience!