Many students experience test anxiety, especially during exam season. Stress can cause poor performance on tests, so it is important to develop a repertoire of anxiety management skills to ensure the best grades possible.
Three keys to successfully taming test anxiety are proper preparation, self-care, and strategic test-taking.
Often, students experience nervousness before a test, because they feel underprepared. There are many study techniques to prepare for a big exam, and each student may have his or her preferred way of studying. Nonetheless, all methods of test preparation require adequate time budgeted to study.
If your teacher has provided a study guide, be sure to meticulously complete it---even if it is optional! Reviewing teacher feedback from old quizzes and assignments can also supplement your study guide or give you a launching point to focus your studies. Many teachers recycle questions from quizzes on their exams, so reviewing which questions you had previous trouble with will help you get a higher score. Regarding scheduling your study sessions, be sure to have at least two separate sessions of 45-60 minutes of intentional, focused material review. Additionally, students ought to complete 30 minutes of lighter (but comprehensive) subject overview before bed to better reinforce retention.
The best way to maximize an intensive study regimen, though, is with a proper self-care routine. Sleep has an immense impact on learning and memory; inadequate sleep actually impairs students' ability to retain information. To better process and remember your subject material, be sure to get at least seven hours of sleep nightly.
Likewise, drink plenty of water: studies have shown that hydration improves cognitive performance. While proper sleep and hydration are important daily self-care habits, eating a carbohydrate-rich meal is best left for just the night before an exam. Be sure to eat a dinner, such as spaghetti, to fuel your brain for its heavy workload the next day. Additionally, caffeine can be anxiety-inducing, so it is best avoided before a stress-triggering event, such as an exam. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help reduce not only test-taking anxiety, but will also mitigate stress in a plethora of other areas.
Now that you have prepared yourself for the exam, the next hurdle is taking the test itself, and it is still easy to feel overwhelmed despite all the steps you have taken to equip yourself for success.
To maintain calm once the test is on your desk, only focus on answering the questions, not on how the score will impact your overall grade. Properly budget your time by not pondering too long on one question. If you get stumped, simply mark that question for later and return to it after completing the other components of the test. Often times, an answer to your difficult question may be tucked away in a later question in the test. If you absolutely do not know the answer to a problem, at least give it your best guess. Leaving a question blank is a guaranteed way to get it wrong.
These three tips are not only helpful for reducing test-taking anxiety, but they also are crucial for overall test success. No matter what, though, it is important to remember to stay positive and keep the experience in perspective: one test is not the end of the world. It is okay to feel some stress about your classes, because this shows that you care about your academic success, but it should not be consuming.
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