Now more than ever, the ability to do your best on tests is the portal through which you must pass to achieve academic and career success in our society. Beginning with the SAT for college entry, GRE or LSAT for graduate school or professional licensing tests such as the State Bar Exam, the ability to think under pressure and score passing grades is essential for achieving career goals. But performance anxiety is as present for test takers as it is for professional singers or emergency personnel. You must be able to control your anxiety while concentrating on the questions to comprehend what is being asked to access your fund of knowledge to answer correctly. As in any stress situation, mental skills can temporarily become degraded leading to distractibility, memory blocking, cognitive dullness or poor decision-making. There are skills, tools, strategies and techniques that you can use to address these liabilities. Review the content in this website and contact us if you have any questions.
Tips for Dealing With Test Anxiety
Dr. Patrick Gannon
Test anxiety is defined as excessive worry about doing well on a test, either before the test or while taking a test. Test anxiety is the same as performance anxiety that triggers a range of symptoms in response to stress or threat. Symptoms are physiological, cognitive and emotional.
Test anxiety can hurt test performance by causing memory lapses, physical and emotional agitation, disorganized thinking, poor judgment and impulsive decision-making. Having SOME anxiety is inevitable and can be useful because it can increase energy and concentration. The following are some tips on reducing test anxiety.
- Being well prepared for the test is the BEST WAY to reduce test anxiety.
- Anxiety can also cause you to PROCRASTINATE and avoid studying leading up to the test which then can INCREASE your test anxiety. If procrastination is an issue for you, talk to your parents and/or school counselor about it and get help as soon as possible.
- Spread out your studying over several days or weeks before taking the test and continually review the studymaterials. Don’t try to learn everything the night before. “Cramming” is not the best way to remember information. Several shorter study sessions are better than a few longer sessions.
- Try to maintain a positive attitude while preparing for the test and during the test. Being positive is a way to encourage yourself and believe in your abilities. In other words, be a good team player for yourself.
- Exercising each day for a week before the test will help reduce stress and increase brain efficiency in learning and memorization. Try imagining taking the test while you are exercising. This will reduce physical anxiety and prime your brain to learn the material when you study. If your anxiety is still high the morning of the test, try doing some moderate exercise to cut down on the anxiety, but not to the point where you tire yourself out.
- Get a good night’s sleep before the test. Try reviewing the test material right before you go to bed to let your brain absorb the information during sleep. Make sure you eat breakfast in the morning before taking the test.
- Get to the test site early so you won’t have to worry about being late. You want to reduce any and all distractions that can interrupt your focus on the test.
- Try to stay relaxed and focused. Learn a simple relaxation technique. If you begin to get nervous, close your eyes, take some slow, deep breaths through your nose and then slowly exhale through your mouth for five minutes or so.