Beating Your Testing Anxiety
Taking a test, especially a big test like the SATs or ACTs, can create some anxiety. While a few test day jitters are normal and typically unavoidable, an excessive amount of testing anxiety can actually hurt your score. Today, we’re giving you some easy ways to conquer testing anxiety and stay calm, cool, and collected for your next exam.
How do I know if my testing anxiety is normal or excessive?
It’s normal to feel a bit nervous before a big exam, but your nerves shouldn’t be debilitating. Clammy palms and a few jitters are normal - racing thoughts, nausea, and dizziness are not! If you’re unable to focus on the test because of your anxiety, it’s excessive.
How can I minimize testing anxiety?
It’s important to get control of your nerves in order to focus on the task at hand. There are a few different ways to reduce your testing anxiety.
The best thing you can do is prepare thoroughly for the exam. This can help in several ways. First, the more prepared you are, the more confidence you’ll have going into the test. The best match for anxiety is confidence. Second, being prepared will help you test well despite the side effects of anxiety. If you have the subject matter down pat, a little anxiety won’t trip you up.
Get enough sleep.
I’m an anxiety-prone person, and my anxiety skyrockets when I’m underslept. I used to pull all-nighters before exams to make sure I memorized everything I possibly could, but it backfired by making me a shaky, nervous mess. Instead of cramming for hours the night before a test, study for an hour or two each night beginning a week before the test. On exam eve, get a solid night’s sleep. Trust me, it will make a big difference!
Exercise is the ultimate anxiety cure. Take your nervous energy and use it on something productive, like a workout class or a long run! Start incorporating exercise into your daily routine, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your overall decrease in anxiety. Exercise is also a great study break!
Don’t worry about your classmates.
Have you ever looked up during a test just to see your classmates confidently scribbling away, making you feel like the only one who is struggling? It’s not helpful! During exam time, keep your eyes down and focus on your own work. Don’t analyze what everyone else is doing, don’t freak out if you’re the last person still working, and don’t interpret their body language only to assume they’ve all aced it. Relax, and focus on yourself.
Keep an eye on the clock.
Even the calmest test takers get freaked out when they’re racing the clock. Avoid feeling rushed and frazzled by pacing yourself throughout the exam. Keep an eye on the clock, and set timelines for getting each section completed. This will help you avoid getting stuck on one question or section, and ensure you aren’t frantically blazing through the final questions as the bell rings.
Don’t fall into an overthinking trap - just get started!
This can happen a lot for essay tests. You’re so worried about writing the absolute perfect response that you freeze up - taking forever to write anything! Don’t let the blank page paralyze you. Instead of sitting and thinking, start writing. Write an outline, jot down ideas, whatever you need to do. Just start moving your pencil, and eventually your essay or short answer will form!
Avoid negative self-talk.
Picture this: you’re at your desk, about to take an important exam. Your parent and your best friend each take a seat beside you. “You’re going to fail this,” your mom says. “You’re a real idiot, you know that?” your best friend says.
You probably wouldn’t appreciate that and it likely wouldn’t help your score… so why do you talk to yourself like that?! Stop putting yourself down, and instead hype yourself up. Repeatedly tell yourself, “I got this. This is in the bag. I’m prepared, I’m smart, and I’m going to dominate this test.” A little change in perspective can make a world of difference.
Take deep breaths! In through the nose, out through the mouth.
This is the standard advice for calming down, but for good reason. For an in-depth look into the science behind deep breathing, check out this TIME article. If you’re not into the science behind it, just know that deep breaths can have real effects on your brain. By taking a deep, slow inhale in through the nose and then a long exhale out through the mouth, you’ll help lessen the physical effects of your test-taking anxiety. Just remember to keep taking these deep breaths throughout the test!
Testing anxiety isn't fun, but you CAN get it under control. Study hard and keep this tips in mind, and you'll conquer any test (no matter how big)!