Test Anxiety Tips

September 22, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Test Anxiety Tips

Have you ever been in a situation where you have put in a lot of effort to prepare for an exam, but as soon as you walk into the room, your mind completely blanks out? As you take a seat to begin your test, you become aware that your palms are sweating and that you have a knot in your stomach.

If you recognize these tried-and-true symptoms of test anxiety, it’s possible that your grades and test scores don’t accurately reflect your true abilities. However, you can learn to manage this both before and during a stressful exam by practicing some test anxiety tips.

What exactly is test anxiety?

Anxiety associated with taking tests is one form of performance anxiety. People can become so anxious that it prevents them from performing to the best of their abilities especially when there is pressure on them mainly because of high expectations or when the stakes are high.

It is both normal and healthy to feel anxious before taking a test. Anxiety can even be helpful. The stimulation can make our minds more alert, and the energy can help us concentrate better.

Female student looking sad and frustrated.

However, there is a limit, and there are situations in which an excessive amount of anxiety can start to impair brain functioning. When our emotional brain starts to feel fear and gets activated, it can be difficult to remember what was studied and to maximize the functioning of our prefrontal cortex. This is because our emotional brain is connected to our feelings.

Test anxiety can be crippling for some students even though it’s completely normal to feel a little anxious before taking a test. The combination of mental symptoms such as racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread with physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, headache, or nausea can be very distressing. Anxiety about an upcoming test has the potential to undo several weeks’ worth of preparation, whether it’s for the ACT, an Advanced Placement exam, or a significant history final.

Signs and symptoms of test anxiety

The symptoms of test anxiety can range from mild to severe. It is entirely possible to have only a few symptoms of test anxiety while still achieving satisfactory results on the assessments. Others may experience feelings of such overwhelming exhaustion that they have panic attacks before or while taking their examinations. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the symptoms of test anxiety can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including physically, behaviorally, cognitively, and emotionally.

Physical Symptoms

The physical manifestations of anxiety can range from a rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, and a dry mouth to trembling, passing out, panic attacks, nausea, and vomiting.

Cognitive and Behavioral Symptoms

Negative self-talk and cognitive distortions are two examples of cognitive and behavioral symptoms that can cause students to avoid situations in which they are required to study or take tests. It’s not uncommon to struggle with focusing and concentrating or to find yourself preoccupied with racing thoughts or ruminating on irrelevant details.

Emotional Symptoms

Low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, frustration, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, and a sense of hopelessness are all examples of emotional symptoms that may be present.

It is important to be mindful of these symptoms so that you’ll be able to identify what test anxiety tips and practices can help you manage it better.

What makes people nervous before tests?

Because of the rigorous nature of the academic setting, some students experience a higher incidence of test anxiety. Anxiety before exams is frequently brought on by a confluence of factors for a variety of reasons. One of the test anxiety tips you can consider is to take note of the following possible triggers:

  • Tendencies toward perfectionism and a fear of falling short. Students struggle with unhealthy levels of perfectionism at alarmingly high rates. Anxiety about one’s performance on a test can be caused by associating one’s sense of worth and identity with that performance.
  • Concerns regarding the past test results. If previous testing experiences have resulted in anxiety-provoking situations or have led to unexpectedly poor outcomes, this can add more anxiety to each additional testing experience.
  • Anxiety that lies dormant. Students frequently have a preexisting anxiety disorder, which can be made significantly worse by the experience of taking tests. This anxiety can cloud the academic journey, leading to a sense of dread around studying and testing, and it can contribute to a person feeling as though they haven’t studied enough.

The roots of your test anxiety

Anxiety is a response that occurs in response to something that causes stress. It could be anything from a discussion or an interview to a school-related event or a significant examination. The physical and mental aspects of a person are impacted in equal measure by anxiety of any kind, including test anxiety. The roots of your anxiety may be one of the following:

1. Concern that One Will Fail

You might feel a lot of pressure if you have an important test coming up. You are under a lot of pressure to make sure that you do well on the test, which can occasionally be motivational. However, you are also worried that failing the test can damage your character, or that the failing grade will reveal you’re true value.

2. Inadequate Level of Preparation

You might have the impression that you are adequately prepared and that you will perform well on the test; consequently, you might put off studying for the exam until the very last minute. Or you may not study at all. On the day of the test, this could result in test anxiety regardless of what happens.

3. Extremely High Pressure

The pressure of knowing that you need to achieve a certain score to pass a class or even to get a job can cause test anxiety because it increases the likelihood that you won’t perform well on the test.

4. Biological Factors Contributing to Test Anxiety

The hormone known as adrenaline is released into your system whenever your body is put in a stressful situation. The release of this hormone, which is referred to as a “fight-or-flight” response, is what helps your body get ready to deal with stressful situations. You can use this response to help you decide whether you are going to stay in the situation and continue to deal with the stress that is occurring or whether you are going to leave the situation.

Test paper and a pencil placed near a clock.

You might find it difficult to focus or concentrate on the test when the “fight or flight” response begins to take effect in your body. You might even break out in a cold sweat, get shaky hands, or experience nausea.

5. Mental Factors Contributing to Test Anxiety

There are mental causes of test anxiety, in addition to the biological causes of test anxiety. One of these is having very high expectations. For instance, if a student goes into an exam believing that they will receive a low score, then it is highly likely that they will begin to experience anxiety both before the exam and while they are taking it.

How to conquer your anxiety about tests?

Students are fortunate in that they have access to resources that can help them address and overcome test anxiety. The individual needs of each person will vary depending on the reasons why they experience test anxiety. Here are some test anxiety tips to help you:

1. Get a head start on your preparations.

You must begin studying for your exam as soon as possible, rather than procrastinating and trying to cram the information into your head at the last minute. Start your studying about a week or two before the exam and divide it up into more manageable chunks daily.

2. Make a schedule for your studies.

It is essential to have a plan to study to do well on a test. You will be able to carve out specific amounts of time to study each day with the help of a study plan, and you will also be able to map out exactly what it is that you will be studying. Make a study schedule that extends from the day you start studying up until the day before the exam and follow it religiously.

3. Master the art of studying.

Even though you might think you have this figured out, there is always room for improvement in terms of how to effectively study. Maximize the use of resources to help you learn useful study skills so that you can feel confident going into that test and doing well on it. AdmissionSight’s private tutoring program can be of great help to you regarding this.

Female student studying in the floor of a building.

4. Maintain an upbeat and optimistic attitude.

It is important to keep in mind that the results of a test do not determine your value as a person. Maintain a positive attitude toward the test and tell yourself that you can perform well on it. You can go a long way toward achieving your goals by having faith in yourself and maintaining a positive attitude as you prepare for and take the exam.

5. Take your time reading.

This is something you should always remember, regardless of whether or not you suffer from test anxiety. Be sure to give the instructions a thorough reading before beginning the test and go through each question and answer before deciding which one to select as the correct response. If you don’t read everything very carefully, you might miss out on a crucial piece of information that will guide you toward selecting the appropriate response.

6. Put some time into studying for practice exams.

Taking practice exams is an excellent way to ensure that you are completely prepared for the test that you will be taking. You will have the opportunity to get a firsthand look at what the exam will be like, including the number of questions that will be on the exam as well as the types of questions that you can anticipate seeing on the exam. You’ll also have a better idea of the areas in which you might benefit from additional practice.

7. Get a good night’s sleep.

This may be one of the hardest test anxiety tips to follow but this is one of the most important as well. Make sure that you get a good night’s sleep the night before the test; it is recommended that you sleep for at least a full 8 hours. A good night’s sleep can help improve your memory and concentration, as well as make you feel refreshed and ready to tackle that test the following day. If you get enough sleep, you can also help improve your mood.

8. Begin with the information you already have.

When you are ready to begin the examination, you are not required to begin with the very first question. Begin with those that you are already familiar with. Do not throw away any more of your precious time trying to find the answer to that one question that has stumped you. You can ignore it and move on to the following one because you already know it. If you have the time, you should try to answer the questions that you skipped over the first time around.

9. Work with flashcards.

When it comes to exam preparation, flashcards are another fantastic resource that you should utilize. They make it possible for you to study the material in more manageable chunks, rather than having to go through an extensive list of concepts. You can concentrate on a single topic at a time, such as words from your vocabulary or particular facts that you are aware you will need for the exam.

10. On the day of the test, arrive at the testing location early.

You don’t want to be in a hurry because you’re going to make things even worse for yourself. If you’re running late for the exam, giving yourself less time to prepare will only make you feel more stressed out when the time comes. Arrive at the testing location a little bit ahead of time. You might find that going for a walk around the building helps relieve any anxiety that you might be experiencing. Simply moving around can help you feel better by expelling some of the nervous energy that’s been building up in your body and getting your blood flowing.

Unidentified student writing in his desk.

11. Remember to take breaks for both eating and drinking.

Both your brain and your body require fuel to function and work appropriately. On the day of the test, as well as in the days leading up to it, you should ensure that you eat a nutritious meal and drink a lot of water. Avoid beverages that are high in sugar as well as beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee. Drinking beverages containing caffeine can make you jittery and increase your nervousness.

12. Don’t lose your focus.

On the day of the test, do everything you can to keep your attention solely on the test. You shouldn’t be concerned about what you’ll be doing after the exam or what happened before it, and you shouldn’t be concerned about how the other people taking the test will perform. You should give your full attention to the test.

13. Dress in a relaxed manner.

Dress appropriately, but make sure to wear something that lets you relax and lets you enjoy being comfortable while you do it. Steer clear of clothing that is either too tight for you or requires frequent adjusting so you can move freely in it. Make sure you bring a light jacket or sweater with you just in case the testing room is on the chilly side.

14. If you feel the need, take a break.

Take a short break whenever you feel the pressure of the upcoming test beginning to get to be too much for you to handle. After you have taken ten slow, deep breaths to calm yourself down, you should reopen your eyes and resume concentrating on the test.

15. Avoid distractions.

You shouldn’t be concerned about the person sitting next to you or in front of you, as they may be completing their test in half the time that you are. Concentrate on the task at hand by finding a spot to sit where you won’t be disturbed by other people or things, such as the front of the room if that’s an option.

Battling with anxiety is a long process and you might need a lot of time to practice managing it well. But with these test anxiety tips, you can at least improve and make it possible to provide better output.

Unidentified person writing in a paper.

It is also best if you can acknowledge your need for help concerning your studies. Students can significantly improve both their scores and their chances of admission by taking advantage of the one-on-one, individualized instruction that we offer here at AdmissionSight. By providing instruction that is unmistakably clear and by having students repeatedly work through practice problems, our highly qualified teachers can address the student’s areas of difficulty and strengthen their conceptual understanding of the material. Thus, lessening their worries of failing or not being good enough. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule your initial consultation and set up an appointment.

Moreover, you should be reminded that if anxiety about taking tests continues and becomes a bigger problem for you, you may want to consider visiting the counseling center or other health care professionals.

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