Test anxiety is a common issue for students everywhere and if you’re going through it, just know you’re not alone. We also know that it’s tricky finding a way to study effectively because you have to discover your own style. Fortunately, we’ve researched several strategies that students can use to overcome test anxiety, improve study practices, and succeed in school.
Prepare Ahead of Time
One of the best ways to combat test anxiety is to prepare ahead of time. This may seem obvious but the more you know the material, the more confident you’ll feel come test time. This means studying regularly, attending class, and completing homework assignments. We know, easier said than done. When it comes to effective studying we actually have a whole blog dedicated to helping you discover your own style! Outside of studying we definitely recommend asking your teachers about what topics the quiz or test will cover. This might seem scary but honestly, most teachers just want to see an effort to improve. If you make the effort and they’ll likely do all they can to lend a hand.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Another effective strategy for overcoming test anxiety is practicing positive self-talk. This is done by using affirmations and positive statements when talking about yourself. If it feels disingenuous at first, that’s totally natural. The fact is, human beings tend to lean toward negative emotions. If you look in the dictionary there are more terms for negative emotions than there are for positive emotions. Sometimes the best way to practice this is to “fake it til’ you make it” approach. At first, it will feel fake but the more you speak to yourself kindly it will eventually take root. Try and use past obstacles you’ve overcome in your self-talk such as “I did _______ before, I can do this now”. Emotions have an actual, physical impact on more than just our behavior. Once you understand this and take steps to improve the way you view yourself, you’ll be on your way to testing success.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can also be very helpful in reducing test anxiety. Techniques like deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation can help you calm your mind and reduce physical tension.
“Alright, so what’s this actually look like during a test?”
Good question, imaginary student.
Slow breathing in a regular cadence is actually proven to slow your heart rate and calm the body down. Try breathing in through your nose slowly, counting to four, and exhaling slowly while counting backward from four.
Visualization is similar to self-talk. Sometimes our own minds are the biggest obstacle in our paths to success. While studying and knowing the content will improve your confidence, at the end of the day, you have to be able to picture yourself leading up to test day and during the test just absolutely acing it. Picture a version of yourself that has completely busted through every obstacle and surpassed every limitation. What does that person look like, act like, and sound like? Once you have those details you can begin becoming that person.
Progressive muscle relaxation might be the most confusing one of all. This means slowly relaxing individual muscles one at a time. For instance, right now unclench your jaw. The majority of you reading this may not have realized you were doing it at all and the fact is, a lot of us do this with our backs, legs, and arms. Additionally, muscle memory is a huge factor in tests. When you attempt to remember information your brain goes back throug the pathways it made when it first learned the information and subconsciously remembers every detail surrounding the information you’re looking to recall. When you study, tap your foot or make a little tiny ball out of a torn piece of paper and roll it between your fingers. During test time, do the same thing and your brain will have an easier time recalling information (just don’t distract others with what you’re doing!).
By taking a few minutes to practice relaxation techniques before a test, you can help yourself feel more centered, focused, and calm.
Get Support from Others
Finally, getting support from others can be a great way to overcome test anxiety. This might mean working with a tutor, joining a study group, or talking to a teacher or counselor about your anxiety. We promise you, you aren’t alone. If you let people in and make them aware of your situation you can begin working towards a future filled with less anxiety because you’ll have a team behind you ready to help you face it. When you have people in your corner who are there to support you and help you succeed, you will feel more confident and less anxious.
Test anxiety can be a major obstacle for students, but it doesn’t have to be. By preparing ahead of time, practicing positive self-talk, using relaxation techniques, and getting support from others, you can overcome test anxiety and achieve your academic goals. Remember, it’s normal to feel anxious before a test, but by using these strategies, you can learn to manage your anxiety and perform at your best.