Most students experience a little bit of nervousness before taking an exam, quiz or test. A little bit of anxiety can even enhance performance. But, too much anxiety can be debilitating. Even though the student prepared by taking notes, doing the homework and coming in before class to get extra help, they can’t help but go blank when the test is sitting in front of them. This experience is defined as test anxiety.
Test anxiety is a psychological condition where the individual experiences so much distress that they can’t function and perform adequately on tests or other ways of proving you know material. This is a type of performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety ranges anywhere from anxiety over an athletic competition to even a class presentation. This can mean being so nervous about a basketball game that the player freezes up and cannot carry out the plays, despite hours of daily practice. Presenting in class can be overwhelmingly nerve-wracking even after hours of learning the material.
So, how can test anxiety be managed?
Make sure you are prepared.
Being prepared for a test can make you feel much calmer. If you know the material well and feel confident, it can help decrease your anxiety over the test. Do not wait until the night before, make sure to get help either from your teacher, a friend or even consider getting a tutor. Never feel embarrassed to ask for extra help! Even if you feel like your questions sound stupid, most teachers will actually appreciate that you are willing to put in the extra work to understand the material and reach out to them for their help.
No one is perfect. Worrying about getting a perfect 100% just adds to the stress you are already feeling. Shooting too high can result in self-inflicted pressure and decreases your ability to think clearly while taking tests. Instead, shoot for a more attainable goal. That way you aren’t setting yourself up to fail, since anything below a perfect score would be considered failing.
Try mindfulness exercises.
Being mindful and in the present moment is a very useful tool to manage any type of anxiety and is highly recommended by many therapists. There are many ways to do this, including downloading an app called Smiling Mind. Smiling Mind guides you through short meditation sessions that help you calm down and be present. It’s an effective and free way to manage test anxiety. In addition to this, doing simple things like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or opening doors with your non-dominant hand can also bring your mind to the present moment, as you have to think more about what you are doing.
Practicing yoga is a great way to relax the mind and the body. Doing yoga once a day and especially on test day can improve your performance and mindspace. Persistence is key with this one. Yoga should be done daily for optimal results. Doing yoga every day, even if you are feeling good that day, is important to form the habit and create a powerful coping tool that you can use on your anxious days.
Take deep breaths
Breathing is very important when trying to calm down. When you are anxious, your breathing becomes irregular and rapid. Taking deep breaths forces your body to relax and return to normal breaths. This can be done by inhaling for 10 seconds, holding the breath for 10 seconds and then exhaling slowly for 10 more seconds. If you don’t want to do this on your own, there are plenty of apps you can use to count for you. There is an app called Calm that is free and easy to use and tells you when to breathe in and out. Doing this breathing exercise before a test can put your mind in the right state for the best results.