So letís say you
have a test coming up. Are you nervous? Do you feel a little worried about how
you will perform on your exam? A little tension or stress before and/or during a
test is normal. Sometimes, that nervousness can work in your favor by motivating
you. However, in larger amounts, tension can interfere or even impair our
ability to think clearly, plan, and perform on tests. The following information
will help you to cope and overcome test anxiety.
prepared are you for your test? Did you study? Tension can be caused by a lack
of preparation for a test. However, this type of tension is easy to understand
and can be eliminated appropriate studying. (Hints on how to improve your study
skills are presented in the
Study Skills screen of
If you have
studied appropriately for your test and you are still overreacting or panicking,
you are suffering from test anxiety. In this screen, we will review the steps
that will help you to overcome its effects. These steps are:
straight about your test
care of your basic needs
BEFORE THE TEST
Preparation is the
key element in reducing test anxiety. The better prepared you are for your exam,
the lower your level of anxiety. Being well prepared for a test can also
increase your self confidence. So, study, study, study!!!NO CRAMMING.
What is cramming?
Imagine stuffing all of your textbooks into your backpack at one time. Would
they all fit? Probably not. Now imagine that backpack is your brain. Just like
your backpack your brain will handle a little information at a time a lot better
than a lot of information at one time. Cramming is an ineffective way of
studying. If you cram the night before, you might be able to pass some parts of
your test, but you will not remember anything afterwards (and in most cases the
information will be included in your final.) It is not a good idea to try to
cram weeks of information into your head the night before the test. Usually,
this is a time when you are feeling anxious, pressured and probably guilty for
studying at the last minute. All of these feelings will make it difficult for
you to concentrate. Some students say that they do worse on a test when they
study weeks ahead of time. Years of research on how to study do not agree with
this statement. If this happens to you it is because you are either, studying in
advance without learning or you have developed a bad habit of learning under
pressure. Both are ineffective ways of learning and both can easily create
REVIEW ALL THE INFORMATION.
Study from your
book, notebook, and any other materials used class. Combine their information.
Work on mastering the main idea, as well as specific ideas or concepts your
teacher may have presented in your class.ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS.
This method is
well explained in the Study Skills screen of the Counseling Center program. When
studying, try to turn the headings into questions, and answer them using the
different sources of information used in class such as your books, notes and/or
study guides. Ask yourself what kind of questions your teacher may ask you. Try
to answer them too. Moreover, ask your teacher for samples of previous tests,
and practice with them as well.
USE FLASH CARDS.
Flash cards are
excellent tools for studying. After you put together your questions and you
formulate the answers, put the question on one side of an index card and the
answer on the other side. This kind of help will allow you to allocate your time
in an effective way. You will be able to study quickly, carry your flash cards
everywhere with you and determine what you already know. Try to use your time to
study what you do not know and merely review what you know.
THINKING STRAIGHT ABOUT YOUR TEST
CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT
Changing the way
you think about studying can improve your performance. Grades and studying are
important, but you should not let them determine your self worth or self esteem.
. This kind of thinking can lead you to see studying as an impossible task.
These kinds of beliefs can create anxiety and stress and reduce your capacity to
concentrate, and learn. This type of thinking can start a vicious cycle. (The
Study Skills website can put you on the straight and narrow!)
PUT YOUR TEST IN
PERSPECTIVE. A test is only a test. Keep in mind that there will be
others. This will help you remove part of the emotional charge we put on our
tests, reducing your stress, and allowing you to study better.
Avoid thinking of
yourself in a negative way. (i.e., I canít do this. This is too much. I will
never learn all of this information.) Avoid getting weighed down by negative
thoughts and feelings related to studying. Focus on what needs to be done and DO
IT. You will be surprised how much time you can waste doing everything else
but studying. Negative thoughts waste time and cause you to feel more
anxious and frustrated.
INVEST TIME IN PLANNING.
Take some time to
review your current study habits and compare it to the success you are having on
tests. Continue to do what is working and start thinking of ways to change what
is not working. This way you can improve your study habits and improve your
performance on tests.
PUT YOUR GRADE IN
Your grade is not
necessarily a reflection of your preparation. You might think that the test
anxiety reduction program is not working because your grades are not immediately
improving. The reality is that your grades will not improve right away. It will
take time and more than one test to see that kind of results. You can consider
yourself successful if you made a plan and followed through with it. If you had
a good plan, and you stick to it, that is what really counts; even if the grade
was not as high as you would have liked it to be. Give yourself a pat on the
back for putting together an effective study plan. The test may have been more
difficult than expected. Take a little time to re-do your plan and try again.
The reverse is also possible, you may have failed your plan and still managed to
get a good grade (E.G., the test included those questions you knew all about.)
Again, you should use more than your actual grade to evaluate your performance.
Take your tests
one at a time. Set reachable goals. Make sure you use all of the information you
know. Hope for a result that matches the stage of program you have reached at
this point. If you set goals that are hard to reach it will only lead to
frustration, which, in turn, will become a good excuse to give up.
TAKING CARE OF
YOUR BASIC NEEDS
KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU ARE MORE THAN A
TEST TAKER. Students concerned about tests usually neglect other
aspects of themselves. Do not forget that taking a test is only one of the
important things in your life. You should also care for your biological,
emotional, psychological, and social needs.
"MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANA."
"Healthy mind in healthy body." Exercise. Stay in good shape. Eat consciously.
Keep up with your recreational and social activities. All of these things
contribute to your well-being and capacity to avoid test anxiety.
REMEMBER THAT "FOOD FOR THOUGHT" IS
ONLY A LITERARY EXPRESSION.
You probably see
some of your friends pigging out on junk food and drinking lots of unhealthy
drinks. (e.g., too many sodas or energy drinks). Some people feel that these
things will help them study better and/or longer. In fact, the result is often
the opposite. A stomach ache will prevent you from concentrating. Caffeine may
give you the jitters, make you feel light-headed or even give you a headache.
SMALL DOSES PLEASE.
Study for short
periods of time (see the
screen for more information.) Take in a little information at a time and take
breaks. It is important to give yourself enough time to study before the test.
The object of studying is to learn as much information as possible, so give
yourself plenty of time.
REST THE NIGHT BEFORE THE
Keep yourself busy
by doing other activities. Play a game of basketball, relax, and talk to your
friends. Rest. Get plenty of sleep. A refreshed mind will allow you to do your
best. A tired mind will not function at its best. (This is the reason why
studying overnight usually does not pay off).
FACE THE DAY OF THE TEST WITH
PRIDE. Take responsibility for your actions. If you studied enough,
be proud of yourself. What really matters at this point is not the potential
grade, but the fact that you did what you were supposed to do. This is an
accomplishment in itself!
EAT A SENSIBLE BREAKFAST.
Do not overeat or
eat junk food before the test. Some students use food as a way to reduce
anxiety. Overeating on the day of the test may backfire on you making it
difficult for you to do your best. You may become physically uncomfortable (such
as a stomach ache) or sick during the test. So eat a healthy breakfast and donít
worry you will do great!
RELAX DURING THE HOUR BEFORE THE
relaxing the hour before the test. It is to late to try to learn what you did
not learn before. Last minute cramming will cloud what you have learned before.
It will also chip away at your confidence.AVOID "STRESS-CARRIERS."
Politely avoid classmates who produce anxiety and affect your
mood to the test. Do not let them scare, stress, or upset you.
BRING A "STRESS-SAVER" WITH
favorite magazine, book or newspaper to read. Reading can help relieve stress
and take your mind off of the test.
USE PHYSICAL RELAXATION.
Learn and use tensing and relaxing techniques to fight off the tension and
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
How are you? How
is your anxiety level? If it is high or moderately high, take some time to
relax. You may think that relaxing will take away from you test time, however
relaxing increases your chances to do a more efficient job. This will save you
time instead. COACH YOURSELF.
Sometimes students get anxious after finding out
that they do not know the answer to the first or second question.
Follow your plan:
Answer the questions you know.
Answer the questions you are not really sure
about, and finally
Answer the questions you do not know
This process will help you to keep moving.
Stick to the plan!!
REVIEW YOUR TEST. Before you
begin answering the questions, review the entire test. Read the instructions
carefully; twice if necessary. Stick to your plan, begin working on the easiest
OUTLINE ANSWERS ON ESSAY
QUESTIONS. Develop a short outline of your answers for essay
questions. This will help you to organize your answer, avoid irritating
repetitions, and skip circular arguments.
GIVE SHORT ANSWERS FOR SHORT-ANSWER
QUESTIONS. Answer short and to the point. Use specific terms and
ideas. If you cannot remember a technical term, describe it in your own
READ OPTIONS CAREFULLY. Read
all the options of multiple choice questions. Eliminate the most obvious. Use
qualifying words such as "always," or "only," to eliminate others. If unsure,
rely on your first hunch, then mark the question with an asterisk or a star and
move on. If you have time at the end, go back and review your marked
WEAR YOUR WATCH. Do not rush
through the test. Keep track of the time. Pace yourself. If you are running out
of time, concentrate on those questions which you can answer. Make sure you
match the number of the question with the number of your answer on the
DO NOT GET STUCK. Do not get
stuck on one question. Skip it and solve the next one. Go back to the question
after you finish answering those you can. Remember that you do not get points
for trying. * RELAX YOUR TENSION. If your tension is hampering your
capacity to do your best, tense and relax your body as needed during the test.
This exercise releases your tension. Breathing deeply, in and out, also helps to
release anxiety. For more information on relaxation, see the
Breathing Techniques, and
Biofeedback screens in this
ASK QUESTIONS. Ask for more
information if you are not sure about a question in your test. Asking your
instructor a question can also help to distract you and reduce your anxiety. *
TALK TO YOURSELF. If your anxiety continues, tell yourself phrases like "I can
be anxious later, now I am going to continue my test." Use any type of internal
dialogue (nobody else need to hear you) that can help you do better in your
IF WORSE COME TO WORSE, USE ANY OTHER
LEGAL TRICK TO DISTRACT YOURSELF. If anxiety continues, use any
acceptable way to distract yourself from it. Request permission to go to the
bathroom or get a drink, etc. If nothing else works, go sharpen your
REWARD YOURSELF. Whether you
did well or not, reward yourself for taking, and surviving your test! You
Evaluate your study plan.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Were you prepared for it?
Were you able to control your anxiety and
What did you do right? (You should repeat this
while studying for the next test.)
What did you do that needs work? (Try to work
on it, but do not dwell on your mistakes!!).
Finally, use your mistakes as a guide.
Mistakes make it easier to figure out what needs to be improved.
THEN... Develop an improved
plan and begin studying for your next test!
| Study Skills |
Test Taking |
| Speaker's Anxiety
Relaxation | Biofeedback
| Attention Deficit Disorder |
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