Ya we know, tests can be scary.
Test anxiety is similar to writing and math anxiety except it is a feeling of stress when studying for or taking an exam, regardless of the subject. You might worry about the types of questions that will be on the test, forgetting about and missing the test, or studying the wrong material. Students who experience test anxiety are often paralyzed with fear when faced with a test situation and they end up missing questions they knew.
Many different experiences can lead to test anxiety. It might be caused by past test-taking experiences, such as blanking on answers, or failing an exam. It could also be caused by inadequate test preparation. If you know that you are not really prepared to take an exam, it’s natural to be anxious about it. Test anxiety can also be caused by competition with your friends or classmates. If you are focusing on how others are doing, you might cause yourself undue stress. In addition, test anxiety can be caused by a lack of confidence in yourself as a learner. When students feel that they are not good learners, they tend to scone more anxious about testing situations. If you find that you are talking negatively to yourself about you ability to learn, you may actually be causing yourself greater anxiety.
Coping with test anxiety. To cope with general test anxiety, try the following suggestions:
-Be prepared. If you monitor your learning to the point where you know which concepts you understand and which concepts are giving you problems, you will feel more confident. Allow enough time for studying, but also have all of the things you need ready for the test. Do you need a pencil, calculator,, notes, or anything else? You don’t want to be tracking these things down right before the test, so be ready to go the night before.
-Understand the task. Talk to the professor about what the exams will be like. Even better, try to look at some of the professor’ sold exams. Examining retired tests will give you an idea of what kinds of questions the professor asks and will also help you become familiar with the professor’s questioning style. It is also a good idea to talk to the professor or to students who have taken the class about the content and format of the exams.
-Arrive to take the test a bit early. Get organized and practice some deep breathing techniques to relax. Take a few deep breaths; think of something you find comforting-the sound of the ocean, a walk in the woods; concentrate on and relax each of your muscle groups.
-Have an approach in mind. If you find you blank out in exams, try to make jot lists as soon as you get the test. Read each question and just jot down everything you know about it in the margin of the test. Don’t look at any answers if it is a multiple-choice type test, just write everything you know before you blank out.
-Focus on you. Ignore other students who finish the exam before you. Just because they finish before you does not mean that they know more than you do. It might be that they are done so early because they don’t know the answers. But either way, don’t worry about what other students are doing.
-Get help controlling your anxiety. There are usually several resource areas on campus that can help you. You might need some tutoring in course content, or some counseling to deal with your anxiety, or you might be eligible for alternate testing situations such as increased time for tests.
-Visualize your success. Think about how well you will do before you walk into the test and remind yourself that you are well prepared and ready to go as the test is being handed out. The more positive you can be, the less anxiety you’ll feel.
Excerpt from College Success Strategies by Sherrie L. Nist and Jodi Patrick Holschuh.