If you always get nervous before a test, you probably know that you’re not alone. Exams put pressure on anyone’s nerves. A certain level of stress actually helps you stay alert enough to recall the answers to the questions and complete the test.
But some people don’t realize that their stress is more debilitating than it has to be. You might keep quiet about the fact that you completely blank out because you’re afraid that people will think you’re stupid. You may actually believe that you’re just not a strong student and you’ll always have to suffer through this anguish.
Test Anxiety is More Common Than You Think
The very real mental health issue of test anxiety affects at least 38 percent of students and has been on the rise for more than a decade. Test anxiety isn’t a learning disorder. It is a learned behavior that can affect anyone. Some experts say that its frequency is heightened by the fact that standardized testing is becoming more common.
Students these days are being bombarded with tests, and teachers aren’t always prepared with the resources to help them cope. This isn’t about an adequate learning environment or students’ intelligence. Test anxiety seems to come out of nowhere, and it can make you feel like you have no control over your performance or academic success.
Fortunately, you can use test anxiety strategies to diminish the distress and perform better on exams. One of the first steps is identifying the condition. Next, you should open up to a loved one or a professional about your concerns. You can get help for exam stress.
The tips below may help you relinquish that static that chokes off your brain when you enter an exam room and help you navigate your studies successfully.
Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety
These test anxiety strategies can boost your performance and help you cope with the debilitating emotions that hit you on test day.
In some cases, all of the studying in the world won’t help you feel less stressed while taking an exam. You need to practice some of the other test anxiety strategies to manage the stress. But if you don’t study enough, you won’t give yourself the best chance of succeeding.
Don’t tell yourself that studying isn’t worth it because you’re going to do poorly anyway. Your unconscious knows when you don’t prepare enough, and it could trigger adrenaline and fear that make your situation worse.
Your school may offer test-taking practice and study skills education. Learning how to make the most of your prep time can help you be more systematic about taking this problem into your own hands. Practicing time management skills can also help. When you don’t wait until the last minute, you’re less likely to experience the stress that comes from procrastination.
Improve Your Recall Skills
Setting up rituals and routines surrounding your study habits can help you remember information when you need to. Try studying in the same place at the same time every day. Doing this will stimulate your senses less than if you study all over the place. It can help you recall the data when you sit down for the exam.
Establish a routine that you follow on the day of the test. You might even want to extend the ritual to the night before the exam. You could practice relaxation exercises, prepare your backpack with the supplies that you’ll need, eat a healthy dinner and get a sufficient amount of sleep. On the day of the test, you could go over your note cards, go for a quick walk and shower to be alert for the event.
Doing something new, different or exciting immediately before an exam can throw you off. It may heighten your senses or trigger a flight-or-fight response that’s similar to anxiety.
Practice Observation Techniques
When you meditate, you learn to watch your thoughts and emotions instead of reacting to them. People with test anxiety can learn to witness their triggers without letting them wipe their minds clear of all the information that they studied.
Mindfulness exercises can help you stay present and grounded when you’re overwhelmed. You can practice mindful breathing anywhere. Focus on your inhalations and exhalations. Every time a thought tries to trap you in its grasp, gently redirect your concentration to your breathing.
Deep breathing also relaxes your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your strong stress reaction. Even if you don’t feel like you can control your mind, you can hack your physiology with this tip.
You can also observe your negative self-talk. As you study, notice whether you get stuck in limiting beliefs, such as:
- I’m terrible at this; therefore, I shouldn’t even try.
- I’m not going to pass this class no matter what I do.
- I always blank out during exams. I’m going to fail.
- Because I got a D last time, I’m not going to do better this time.
Every time you observe a negative thought, come up with a positive mantra to reroute it. You might say something like:
- I’ve been practicing new study skills, and I’m more confident now.
- I know that I am smart and diligent enough to pass this class.
- Just because I went blank on the last exam, it doesn’t mean that I’ll choke on this one.
- I’m going to double check the exam for careless errors so that I don’t get a poor grade again.
If your negative thoughts are especially intrusive, try telling them to stop. You might have to yell loudly in your head to get the point across. You could even imagine that your thoughts are an external entity that’s trying to manipulate you. Kick them out of your brain. Immediately afterwards, practice a relaxing breathing exercise and repeat your mantra to yourself.
Ask for Support
You shouldn’t suffer from this problem alone. Talking to a mental health professional who can evaluate you for test anxiety can help you feel more supported. Once you identify the issue, you can talk to your teachers. Many educational institutions offer accommodations for people with test anxiety.
At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, we are glad to talk to you about your concerns. If you’re diagnosed with test anxiety, your challenges will qualify you for test anxiety accommodations that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
These accommodations, combined with the tips above, and professional treatment for a mental health disorder, can change the way that you manage exam stress and transform your future.
For comments, questions, or to reach Ron N Gad, feel free to call (888) 494-7788