School can be stressful no matter where you are on your educational journey. Regardless of whether you’re a primary school student or an employee taking a career certification, nobody is immune to it. A change in routine, being overloaded with homework, and lack of downtime are some of the most common forms of student stress. That doesn’t even address interpersonal conflicts or other influences outside of the topic of study.
Test anxiety is a real thing that goes well beyond simple nerves. Self-doubt and fear of failure start compounding in your brain. Your body may react with a racing pulse, nausea, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, and lack of concentration. A full-blown panic attack isn’t out of the question, either. It’s a perfect recipe for failing that test that you’ve spent so many months preparing for.
Thankfully, you can go into your upcoming test with confidence whether you’re studying for a spelling bee or reviewing your NASM study guide. Use these 10 tips and tricks for getting ahead of your anxiety and slam-dunking your upcoming test.
1. Prepare in Advance
Procrastination is the enemy here. While some people feel motivated by procrastination, it causes unnecessary stress that can affect performance. Don’t put off studying until the last second. Divide the work into smaller bits in advance and start studying a week or more beforehand. Even just studying in a consistent location can help.
2. Attitude is Everything
It can be hard to do when you’re in the moment but remind yourself that the outcome of a test doesn’t determine your self-worth. Focus on positive outcomes and watch out for negative self-talk. Be mindful of past successes and don’t allow the test to define you.
3. Read the Directions
This can be easy to miss when you’re experiencing test anxiety. Be sure that you understand both the directions and questions completely before answering. It will do you no good to have the correct answer if the question is asking for something else. Don’t rush, but do be aware of the time.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Are there study guides or practice tests available? If so, don’t pass them up. Think of them as a dry run or open-book version of the test you’ll be doing. It will deal your anxiety a blow to have an idea of what to expect and in what areas you need to improve beforehand.
5. Be Well Rested
Lack of sleep is seldom a solution to any problem and is certainly the cause of many. Your concentration will plummet if you’re in a sleep-deprived haze, and that’s an open door for anxiety. If you’re practicing a daily study regimen, being able to “sleep on it” can do wonders for your retention. Try to get a good night’s sleep several nights before the test.
6. Skip Ahead
Give yourself a break and accept that you probably won’t know the answer to every question. There’s no reason you can’t look through the test and answer questions you’re certain you have the correct answers to. Use them to boost your confidence. You might even jog your memory for some of the harder ones.
7. Get There Early
After all the work you’ve done in the previous weeks to prepare, don’t blow it by getting frazzled at the last minute. The night before, prepare anything you need to bring, such as snacks. Give yourself plenty of time to get there and arrive at least 10 minutes early. Walk about the premises or bring something to read if you prefer to pass the time without brushing up. Avoid chatting with others who are anxious.
8. Get Enough to Eat
Eat well the night before and allow enough time in the morning to get in a solid breakfast. If you starve your body, you’ll be starving your brain, too. Drink plenty of water. Avoid a sugar crash by staying away from sugary foods or drinks. Caffeine can make you jittery and increase anxiety.
9. Don’t Let Distractions Derail You
Do all you can to stay focused. Distractions will abound, and suddenly anything seems more interesting than the questions on the sheet. Don’t get caught up in reviewing a conversation from earlier that morning or worry about how fast others are going. Keep an eye on the clock to make sure you have time to finish, but don’t obsess over it.
10. Keep Your Cool
If you start feeling stressed out, take a moment to close your eyes and visualize a positive outcome. Try relaxing your muscles and taking a few deep breaths to slow your heart rate.
Turn It In
For most people, the stakes become higher, the pressure goes up, and nerves start kicking in when they sit down to take a test. Don’t let it happen to you. Just follow these tips and your test-taking experience will be no sweat.