If you went through the public school system in the US, you probably took your fair share of standardized tests. And classroom tests. And state tests. And college entrance tests.
For some, the practice of taking a test is some of the worst torture imaginable. If you are one of those people, you might just have test anxiety.
What is test anxiety?
Test anxiety is when your nerves prevent you from performing well on a test. Simply put, it’s when you’re unable to show everything you know because you’re so worried.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry mouth
- Inability to sleep
- “Butterflies” in the stomach
So you think you might have test anxiety. Now what?
The thing about test anxiety is that if not kept under control, it can lead to some potentially harmful outcomes, such as academic failure or dropping out of school in extreme cases. Even in the best of cases, test anxiety can really hinder your academic performance. This is rough when you have to take the big scary tests like the SATs or ACTs.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways that people can get their anxiety under control.
How do I kick test anxiety to the curb?
While there are no one size fits all approaches to beating test anxiety, there are plenty of tips and tricks for you to try out.
1. Over-prepare for your tests. Really buckle down and study the material so you know it inside and out. Try to boost your confidence about the test your about to take. If you walk in thinking “I’m going to rock this” the anxiety is much easier to handle. Fake that confidence until you really feel it.
2. Exercise before the test, and get a good night’s sleep. If your body feels good you’ll be much less on edge.
3. When you’re in the room, try to find a place that’s comfortable. If you like to see the clock, make sure you can see it. If you find the windows distracting, move away from them. I’m personally a big fan of having “my seat” in every classroom (front row, far left), which always puts me at ease.
4. When you’re actually taking the tests and you feel yourself getting panicked, take some deep breaths. Count to three, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try gripping onto the sides of the chair or your desk to relieve some tension. If you can chew gum in the room, chew some gum. Just do your best to relax.
Don’t let it beat you.
Test anxiety is rough, but you can really beat it if you experiment and find what works for you. I broke out into hives the first time I took the SAT because I was so panicked, but the second time I sat for my tests, I was able to relax and kick butt. Try different methods; not everything works for everyone, but there is something out there that will help.
Do you have a test anxiety strategy? Share it in the comments!