how to manage test anxiety

Practical tips to overcome test anxiety

September 16, 2023
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Test anxiety is a real and challenging issue for many students, regardless of age or academic prowess.

Who hasn't felt that flutter in the stomach, the sweaty palms, or the racing heart just before a big exam? For some, this anxiety is a mild nuisance. For others, it is so profound that it can seriously impair their ability to perform at their best.

If either of these sound familiar, then this article is for you. Test anxiety can be managed, and there are plenty of strategies you can employ to perform your best when it counts.

So, let's dive into some effective methods to help you conquer your test anxiety.

Understanding test anxiety: your brain on a test

Before we delve into solutions, it's crucial to understand what test anxiety is and why it occurs.

Test anxiety is a psychological condition that manifests itself as nervousness, fear, and distress before or during an exam. Approximately 16-20% of students have high test anxiety, making it the most prevalent scholastic impairment in our schools today.

The reasons behind this can range from fear of failure, lack of preparation, or even past experiences of not doing well.

Symptoms of test anxiety

Text anxiety is more than just "feeling nervous." Symptoms can be broadly classified into the following categories:

  • Physical symptoms: Headaches, nausea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat can all arise due to test anxiety.
  • Emotional symptoms: Feelings of anger, helplessness, and disappointment are often associated with test anxiety.
  • Behavioral/cognitive symptoms: Negative thoughts and comparing yourself to others are both common symptoms of test anxiety.

Knowing the symptoms of test anxiety can help you address the root causes more effectively.

7 strategies to keep test anxiety at bay

Ready to take control of your test anxiety and learn how to overcome it? Here are seven strategies that can help:

  1. Be prepared: One of the most common reasons for test anxiety is feeling unprepared. Dedicate adequate time to study, space out your revision periods, and avoid cramming the night before an exam. As Benjamin Franklin aptly said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
  2. Practice relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can all help to calm your mind and body. Even simple acts like taking deep breaths can help in reducing anxiety during a test. A great tool that can teach you relaxation techniques to overcome anxiety and increase focus is the Balance app, which is totally free for your entire first year.
  3. Stay positive: Negative self-talk can be a formidable enemy. To overcome it, replace thoughts like "I'm going to fail" with "I've got this," "I've prepared the best I can," or "I'm doing my best and letting go of the rest."
  4. Simulate exam conditions: Familiarity can breed comfort. By taking mock tests under exam conditions, you can acclimate yourself to the test environment. Over time, the real test environment becomes less intimidating.
  5. Join a study group: Sometimes, discussing topics with peers can reinforce knowledge and highlight areas you may need to focus on.
  6. Sleep and nutrition: It might sound cliché, but a good night's sleep and proper nutrition play a critical role in how we handle stress. Ensure you're getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep before an exam and eat a balanced meal on test day. The Balance app, mentioned earlier, also has a wonderful library of sleep resources that can help.
  7. Seek support: If your anxiety is too overwhelming, consider seeking support. This could be in the form of school counselors, teachers, or professional therapists who specialize in cognitive-behavioral therapy, a proven method to treat anxiety disorders.

Empower yourself with the right tools

Beyond the above strategies, empowering yourself with the right tools can make all the difference. One such tool is the Elevate app, available on iOS and Android.

Elevate provides game-based tools designed to improve practical skills like reading, writing, speaking, memory, and math. As you hone these skills in a fun, interactive environment, you'll grow more confident in your abilities, which can help reduce test anxiety.

Remember, facing test anxiety is not about eliminating nervousness entirely; it's about managing it effectively to ensure it doesn't hinder your performance. With persistence, the right strategies, and tools like Elevate, you're well on your way to turning test day into an opportunity to shine rather than a source of dread.


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