Overcoming test anxiety
Submitted by Matthew Brown, Accessibility Counsellor
Anxiety is a normal feeling that everybody experiences at some time. It serves as a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations (e.g., fight or flight), but can also serve a motivator. When it comes to test anxiety, the effect tends to impact the amount of effort more than performance and the distress one experiences does not mean lower marks. It should also be noted that a single test will not define one’s entire academic career.
What is test anxiety?
Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety that can cause extreme stress, worry and discomfort. Fear of failure is commonly associated with test anxiety but as mentioned previously, there is less impact on performance than predicted. Having some test and presentation anxiety is normal and is something most college students experience.
Strategies to overcome test anxiety
Strategies to start overcoming one’s test anxiety can include such things as:
- Getting a good night’s sleep;
- Eating healthy and regularly;
- Hydrate—limit caffeine and sugary drinks;
- Doing regular physical exercise;
- Get to the test on time (or even a little early);
- Practice relaxation techniques and/or deep breaths.
Accepting and working with your anxiety can also provide some relief, including helpful and positive self-statements such as “This is just test anxiety—I’ve got this,” “I have studied for this test and I can pass it.” Avoiding distractions—ignoring others, not watching the clock—can also alleviate test anxiety for some individuals. Contacting your professors with any concerns you may have can help with preparing for future tests.
Embrace your unique skills
Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do. Everyone has their own unique set of skills and when writing tests, it is helpful to think about what questions you are able to answer first. This also involves setting realistic goals for yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others when writing—all students work at their own speed. “I will be done when I’m done.” By keeping a balanced perspective, you are looking at the bigger picture—this is only one test in your academic career and by sitting in the present moment you avoid chasing worrisome thoughts; “All I have to do right now is answer one question at a time.”
Practical solutions for tests to lessen the feeling of anxiety also include being prepared for your test; avoid cramming before the test as this only serves to increase anxiety. Setting a schedule and organizing study time into your routine can boost confidence prior to a test. This includes specific study strategies, practice quizzes and flash cards.