For many, taking a test can be one of the most frightening experiences in the world. There’s all kinds of pressure flying at you from all sides and perspectives. What if you don’t know enough? What if you can’t prepare well enough in time? What if you fail? How could this affect your overall grade? Your future?
We understand where you’re coming from! Testing is tough. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips and suggestions to keep in mind as you get ready for your test. Test anxiety is common, but it’s treatable and beatable. Read on to learn more.
Test Anxiety Tips
It’s normal to feel some level of anxiety when you have a big test coming up. The best solution, however, is to stay calm and focus on studying and preparing as much as you can. By mapping out a study plan, you should be able to build up quite a bit of confidence before testing day arrives. Here’s how you can start.
How to deal with Test Anxiety
- Find out what will be on the test. Typically your teacher will give you some idea of what will be on the test before you study. However, this won’t always be the case, especially where standardized tests are concerned. If this is the case, you’ll want to do a little research. Be sure to find out as much as you can about the setup of the test alongside the featured subject matter.
- Never procrastinate! Waiting until the last minute to study means you won’t retain nearly as much information as you’ll need and won’t do as well as you could. Studying and testing are intimidating for the majority of people. However, putting it off is the academic equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. You want to hit the ground running rather than limp towards the finish line. Give yourself plenty of time to study before the test arrives.
- Take great notes. Good test preparation starts from the moment class begins! As you listen to lectures and participate in class on a regular basis, be sure to take thorough notes. This way, you’ll be that much more prepared when it comes time for you to study. If there are any gaps in your notes, whether due to absences or anything else, you can get a friend to help fill you in.
- Keep an eye out during class time. Your reviewing won’t always be independent work! Oftentimes the teacher will go over materials that will receive special attention on the test in order to help everyone prepare. You’ll profit by keeping your ears open!
- Study with others. You may find working with a group is far more effective (and enjoyable!) than studying on your own. If you have friends in your class, consider asking if you all can meet to study for the exam and compare notes.
- Organize your desk. While you may not realize it, a clean desk in a quiet space makes it far easier for you to study! If you don’t have such an area at home, the library or a similar space makes for a great substitute. Make sure whatever space you choose is not only quiet, but empty of any potential distractions.
- Draft your study plan. Going into study mode whenever the mood strikes you or any time you have enough time available will eventually prove ineffective. After all, most of us don’t spend our free time studying. Before you begin preparing for a test, etch out a block of time to devote purely to your studies. Be sure to also make some time for your hobbies to prevent burnout!
- Always study when you’re alert. You won’t be able to retain anything nearly as well when you study while exhausted. Instead, plan your study time when you know you’ll be full of energy and can pay attention to what you’re reviewing.
- Utilize your free time. There isn’t anything wrong with indulging in some spontaneous preparation! If you have a bit of time on your hands from day to day, consider creating some portable notes and glancing over them during your downtime. This will help to improve your knowledge retention.
- Go over older notes. The point of any exam is to assess what you’ve learned from your class sessions. You can’t show off that learning by looking over your notes once then never again. Review older lessons alongside what you’ll be tested on. You never know when older information may come in handy, and doing this will allow you to really grasp everything you’ll need to know.
- Don’t forget SQ3R! SQ3R refers to surveying your learning materials, composing questions from the rudimentary concepts of what you’re reviewing using what you know about the test’s subject matter, reading the materials fully, reciting each question you’ve come up with, and reviewing your responses to each question for accuracy. This is a great way to prepare for short answer questions.
- Face your fears. If there are any particular types of questions that could potentially be on the exam and that intimidate you, you can face them head-on by quizzing yourself while you study. This gives you a safer atmosphere for getting questions wrong, and helps you learn how to better tackle the question so they’re easier to answer during the real exam.
- Practice tests are your best resource. If the exam you’re preparing for is standardized, taking practice versions is an invaluable way to prepare. You’ll be able to get a firsthand glimpse of the exam in its entirety, meaning you’ll more adequately know what to expect and which areas you’ll need to give more focus as you keep studying.
- Write out sets of flashcards. Flashcards have long served as the go-to resource for students. You can easily use them to quiz yourself on smaller concepts, such as vocabulary words or specific facts you’ll need to know for the exam.
- Read out loud. Don’t worry about how you’ll sound. Reading your notes out loud will help your retention by hitting two major memory points: listening to the information and talking about it.
- Acronyms are great for memorization. Consider how many concepts you already remember because they’ve been organized into neat, easy to remember acronyms. Making up your own acronyms for a tricky concept can be the first step to memorizing it more easily.
- Don’t neglect yourself. There’s no point in studying to the point you neglect your basic needs. If you stress yourself out too much, you could wind up being too sick to make it to class on test day, putting you back at square one. Be sure to eat and drink regularly, sleep for at least eight hours each night, and stay active in between studying. A healthy test taker is a successful test taker!
- Grant yourself incentives. Sometimes a big task is easier to tackle once you’ve split it into smaller chunks and placed a few rewards to help you along. If you find you can’t study in long stretches, consider setting shorter blocks of time for your studies which you can conclude with something you enjoy, be it a TV show, a snack, or a relaxing hobby.
- Be positive! Your belief in yourself can easily nosedive in the face of a challenging exam looming over the horizon. However, believing you’ll fail from the get-go could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep an optimistic attitude while you study and you’ll make excellent progress!
- Make the test seem fun. We know what you might be thinking. If you thought test-taking was fun, you wouldn’t be reading this article! However, turning the test into a sport can eliminate much of the pressure and seriousness that’s making you feel so nervous.
Text Anxiety During the Exam
Oftentimes our nerves don’t hit us until test day arrives. We’ve all opened our testing booklet only to find our heads emptying of all knowledge or stuttering to respond to the first question. Here are a few ways you can calm your nerves as you finally take that big exam.
- Grant yourself the best possible start. Don’t spend the night before the exam doing any last minute cramming! Sleep actually serves as an effective method of helping your brain store information, so you’ll want to give it the chance to do so. Be sure to have a nutritious breakfast before you test! This will ensure your brain is properly energized and ready to help you remember what you’ve studied.
- Lend yourself a break—from studying, that is! You’ve spaced out your studying well enough beforehand that you really do know all that you need to know. Forcing yourself to do more on the morning of your exam won’t do you any favors. In fact, it could burn you out! Be kind to yourself by relaxing a bit prior to the exam.
- Start on the right foot. Be sure you arrive on test day with everything you need and on a punctual manner. This will ensure you’re able to devote yourself completely to finishing the exam.
- Maintain positive self-talk. You’ve studied as hard as you can. The test is right in front of you, and you’ve gathered all the possible knowledge you can to succeed. You can do this! All you have to do is remind yourself you’re capable of acing the test. Swallow down your worries and it’ll be easier to perform at your best.
- Try to emulate your study environment. Just as you’ve studied somewhere quiet and with few places to snag your attention away from the material, you should do the same when it comes time to take a seat and test. This will ensure you’re able to work at full capacity and concentrate.
- Read all of the instructions. Failing to pay enough attention to instructions is how we make the majority of our testing errors. Prior to answering any questions, be sure to go over all of the instructions twice. That way you’ll have the best possible idea of how to approach each question.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Understanding what you’re supposed to do is just as vital to doing well on your exam as the studying you’ve put in. If you find yourself confused by any instructions on the exam, flag down a teacher or test administrator and ask them what it means. Your score will profit from it!
- Skim the entire exam. Scanning every facet of the test can help it to seem far less scary. Take a glimpse not just at the material, but at how much each section is worth and any time limits placed upon you. This will give you a sense of how to tackle the exam in the most effective manner possible.
- Record what you know. Sometimes as we test, we forget things we very clearly knew right before we started. To remedy this, be sure to write down the most important facts you’ve memorized—whether they’re dates, formulas, or anything else—so you can easily reference them again later.
- Relax! Take miniature breaks every so often as you test. Of course, we don’t mean getting so relaxed you doze off in the middle of the exam! Just breathe and try to re-gather yourself at regular intervals. It’s easy to grow tense during exams without realizing, which can affect your memory.
- Invest your time wisely! Reviewing the test beforehand will allow you to figure out the best way to spend your time. You’ll want to focus on the exam sections with the most exam weight first. This will help you to ensure you score as many points toward your grade as you can.
- Don’t speed through the exam. This is the easiest way to make careless mistakes while you test. Even if you have a time limit to deal with, you want to slow down and make sure you’re following instructions and paying close attention to what you’re doing. The key is to work smarter, not faster!
- Don’t mull for too long. If you find yourself stuck on a question, it’s perfectly okay to put it on hold and come back to it later. That way you don’t miss out on points by investing too much time in one question, especially if the exam is timed. The answer just may come to you in the meantime.
- Accept that you won’t know everything. It’s incredibly difficult to know absolutely everything there is to know on a test, especially if it’s a very long or standardized test. Sometimes you’ll see questions on the exam that you had no way of preparing for. However, you’ve studied enough that you should see more questions you’ll know how to answer than questions you don’t!
- It’s okay to guess! The process of elimination is one of the very best strategies you can have for any multiple choice exam. What’s even better is very few exams count off from your score because you’ve made a guess. Any answer is better than no answer, and you could very well end up picking the right answer and gain more points toward your score!
- Review! Once you’ve finished every question on the test, you’ll want to review everything if you have any time left. You always want to do whatever you can to avoid careless mistakes in your testing. Checking over the answers you’ve given allows you to make sure you’ve filled everything in and haven’t missed any important information or steps as you’ve worked through the exam.
- Create an outline for essays beforehand. While you may feel pressed for time, you don’t want to leap ahead into writing out the essay portion of your exam. This is the first and easiest way to end up with a jumbled mess that may earn a much lower score than you want. Write down the basics of your ideas, and you’ll discover a world of difference in how well-written your work is!
- Check your essays too! While essays aren’t quite as easy to correct as multiple choice questions, you can still make a few edits while you have the time. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to read over your essay one more time before the testing session ends.
- Extra credit is your friend. If you feel you know the answer to extra credit questions, there’s no harm in giving them a shot. Extra credit means extra points, which will be added onto your score!
- Speed isn’t the name of the game. If you see other classmates completing their exams before you, remember everyone works at their own pace. It’s okay if you haven’t yet finished! Don’t freak out and rush, as this makes it easier to miss questions you’d otherwise get right if you take your time.
Dealing with Testing Anxiety After the Exam
Even once the test is over and done with, anxiety can creep over us anew. We wonder how well we did and if we really prepared as well as we originally thought. Sometimes the questions that stumped us stick firmly in our mind’s eye, convincing us we did far worse than we may have done in reality. Here’s how to banish those thoughts:
- Don’t dwell on “what ifs.” What’s done is done. You’ve studied hard and done your absolute best. That’s all that matters, no matter what grade you get! You can always use this exam as a learning tool for how to better prepare for the next one.
- Don’t let classmates increase your fears. Hearing how poorly other people think they did on the test will only raise your hackles unnecessarily. Again, the point is to relax. You’ve already taken the test, so the hard part is over!
- The first test is the best gauging tool. If this is the very first exam you’re taking for a particular class, you can use it as a rubric for what other exams will be like in the future. You will then have a better sense of how to prepare and boost your chances of scoring better next time.
- Use your returned test as a reference. Once you have your score and test papers back, you can use it to further prepare for yourself for other tests in the class (or for retakes, depending on the type of test.) Check out where you didn’t do as well and make a note to pay special attention to that subject or question type the next time you have an exam to study for.
- Don’t forget to reward yourself! You’ve overcome a hard task: finishing an exam in the face of anxiety! You should give yourself credit by doing something you like, whether it’s a Netflix binge or a favorite snack. You’ve earned it!
Things to Remember About Test Anxiety
Perfectionism is often our worst enemy. It can lead us to exhibit unhealthy behaviors and second guess ourselves when we shouldn’t. Be sure to keep these ideas in mind no matter what stage you’re at in the testing process.
- It’s okay to feel anxious. No feeling is invalid. Tests are a big deal, and it’s completely understandable that you feel nervous. Everyone does. In fact, a bit of anxiety keeps you conscious of how to work efficiently. The key is dealing with your test anxiety is ultimately to work through it so it doesn’t inhibit you testing at your absolute best.
- You are not your score. Too often we let our grades affect our self-esteem. You’ve prepared as much as possible for the exam. No matter what kind of score you get, you’re still worthy as a student and a person. One exam will not destroy your entire future. All you can and should expect from yourself is your best.
- Sleep is one key to success. By ensuring you sleep for at least eight hours the night before you take your test, you’ll equally ensure your memory runs at full capacity. This means you’ll be far more prepared to take the test, and won’t feel quite so nervous.
- Get professional advice. If none of these suggestions are able to quell your anxiety, it may be time to seek counseling services. You can find such services on campus, whether you’re in college or high school. Sometimes talking to someone is the best remedy for alleviating our fears.
We hope this list will help you as you navigate preparing for and taking your next big exam. We at Mometrix Test Preparation believe in you! That’s why we strive to provide you with all the testing anxiety resources you could possibly need. We want you to succeed just as much as you do. Remember: you can do this. All you should expect from yourself is your best. Good luck! We know you’ll do just fine.