Anxiety before taking a test is normal and can help increase your motivation to study. Test anxiety, however, is different because you may experience excessive worry, self-doubt, or physical symptoms such as nausea or fatigue. These feelings can come either when thinking about taking the test or immediately prior to testing. Managing test anxiety is challenging, so it’s helpful to create a plan prior to being in that anxiety-ridden moment.
Here are a few tips to help reduce test anxiety.
- Wellness: It’s important to take care of your wellness because sleep, food, hydration, and physical activity all affect your anxiety levels and emotional regulation. Remember to get enough sleep the night prior to a test, eat a meal, and stay hydrated. It can also help to engage in physical activity in to regulate your emotions. You can monitor each of these systems when working on test anxiety long-term – not just on the day of the test itself.
- Relax: Test anxiety can put us into fight or flight mode which can make us feel restless, fidgety, or overwhelmed. Remember to check in with yourself and relax. This can look different for everyone, so create a list of relaxing things you enjoy doing. For example, going on a walk, riding your bike, listening to music, or watching a TV show. This can also look like petting a dog, cooking, baking, or reading a book. No matter how you do it, set aside time to relax.
- Positive Self Talk: Create a list of positive phrases that you would say to a friend to hype them up before an exam. Then, use them on yourself! Write them on post-it notes, create a phone or computer background with them, or ask your friends and family to write and text affirmations to encourage yourself and create a positive mindset. It can also help to think of when where you were successful with test-taking in the past. It’s a positive reminder that you have been in a similar situation, got through it, and survived in once piece!
- Create a test-taking plan: Create an action plan for both when you take the test and before you start it. Make sure that you eat and stay hydrated. Engage in something relaxing that will help you get focused and centered in the moment prior to taking the test. Clear your mind and try to avoid overwhelming yourself prior. Creating a plan helps you feel prepared, especially if you make one to combat test anxiety during the exam. This can look different for everyone – however, it typically includes watching the clock, taking breaks, practicing deep breathing, stretching, staying hydrated, and/or self-encouragement. Additionally, it may mean using accommodations if you require extra time, a room with dimmer lights, or a room with no other students.
Test anxiety is a common challenge, but it doesn’t have to stand in the way of your success. By understanding its causes and implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage test anxiety and perform at your best. Remember, managing test anxiety is a skill that improves with practice, so be patient with yourself as you work toward achieving your academic and personal goals.