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Image from Pexels.

Test anxiety is never fun to experience before and/or during a test. Nothing can feel worse than walking into a test feeling prepared and maybe a little nervous, but then completely breaking down during the test. The day before you felt adequately prepared, but by the time you sit down and look at the first test question, your mind almost shuts down and as hard as you try you can’t quite remember the information or concept you thought you knew before. While there is no perfect solution for every person, there are ways to overcome test anxiety (for more information regarding test anxiety, click here).

Before the Test

If you’re starting to feel a little anxiety before the test, by most means it’s all natural. You’re a little nervous, and that’s totally fine. However, if issues arise and you find it hard to concentrate, ask yourself: Do you understand the material? How much have you studied? Have you studied? If you answered “no” to any one of these, your worries may be from the feeling that you don’t feel adequately prepared for the test. A nice solution to that is to ask peers, teachers, or family members for help.

This isn’t always the case, though. You may have studied for hours and hours and have a firm grasp of the material, but you still feel nervous about the test coming up. My advice: take a deep breath and do something you enjoy for a few minutes. Whether it’s meditate or eat your favorite snack (which is something I LOVE to do), give yourself some time to relax from studying. You’re probably only going to feel more panicked if you’re feeling stressed out and uncomfortable.

Also remember: get plenty of SLEEP and rest the night before the test. Feeling tired and nervous during a test is never a good combination because it can make you even more anxious than before, which could be disastrous. Another good tip is to EAT a proper meal. Walking into a test on an empty stomach only adds more distraction to your mind while you’re working on the test. It’s important to take care of yourself before the test because you want to limit as many distractions as possible so you can focus all of your time on the test.

I know sometimes going to sleep right before an important test can be tough. A few suggestions that I have to help you get plenty of sleep include reading your favorite book or listening to soothing music right before you sleep rather than going to sleep right after you finish studying. Doing something that calms your nerves is almost always the best solution to helping you fall asleep. If you’re still having trouble falling asleep, try to just lay down and relax even if you’re not sleeping. At least give your body some of the rest it deserves. That way, even if you’re a little tired, your body will feel less sore, which can definitely help loosen your mood during the test.

Of course there is one huge problem that all of us are at least somewhat guilty of: procrastination. Cramming every single piece of information in your mind is only going to make you more stressed out and anxious for the test. Plan ahead of time so that you can pace your studying and feel less hurried and panicked when the night before the test arrives.

During the Test

The day is finally here! It’s perfectly okay to feel a little nervous before a test, but keep reminding yourself of all the hard work you put in. I think this is where most of the anxiety starts to happen for most people, though. So first, let me reassure you: You’re going to be fine. I know sometimes it’s hard to tell yourself that you’re going to be okay, but YOU’RE GOING TO BE OKAY.

You’re about to take the test. You start to panic. Now what? Start by first taking deep, long breaths because your adrenaline might possibly cause you to start hyperventilating, which is something you definitely don’t want to experience before a test. At this point, you want to do the best you can to focus so that you’re not panicking right at the beginning.

Begin! So you start taking the test. Everything’s going fine, and then all of a sudden you halt at a question. You have no clue how to do it or can vaguely remember how to answer the problem. Don’t panic. If you don’t have the slightest clue on how to answer the question, skip it and continue on. You can always come back to it later, but focus on answering what you can answer first. If you find yourself skipping a lot of questions, don’t feel discouraged. Base your answer on how much you are familiar with the topic, and just try to at least answer the question even if you don’t know the exact answer.

If you’re panicking throughout the entire test, keep motivating yourself to continue trying. Don’t give up yet! You know a lot more than you think, so reassuring yourself of your capabilities is important. You studied really hard for this and you’re going to do well. Get rid of those negative thoughts that are making you anxious and stressed. Take each question one step at a time so that you won’t overwhelm yourself with doing something overly complicated. Keeping a positive attitude throughout the test can not only make you feel less nervous, but can also help you be more productive as you work since you’re less doubtful of yourself.

After the Test

Congratulations, you’re done with the test! HIGH FIVE. You’re feeling a little tired and drained, but you did it! Sometimes it can be tempting to worry about your performance on the test, but realize this: It’s over. There’s nothing more you can do to change your performance. Stressing about how well or poorly you did isn’t going to change your grade whether you like it or not. Give yourself a pat on the back; you deserve it!

Remember that different things work for different people. For example, I stretch and eat bananas a few hours before a test because it almost always seems to calm my nerves. However, there is one thing that I always keep in mind: it’s just a test. While it’s something a little harder to realize for more pressurized standard tests such as the SAT and ACT, it’s still just a test. You’re going to be fine after the test. Nothing bad is going to happen. I think some people get wrapped up by performing so well on tests it ends up working against them. The test won’t necessarily be a true indication of your knowledge, so don’t worry if you don’t perform as well as you thought. After all, understanding the material is much better than going through test after test not knowing what you’re doing. And of course, remember to always try your best!

How do you help overcome your test anxiety? Share it in the comments!

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the author

Raised in the outskirts of Austin, Texas, Eric Po is a freshman at Harvard University studying Economics. He loves listening to country music (particularly Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley), but you can’t blame him; he’s a Texan after all! He also enjoys outdoor activities, including soccer, running, and Ultimate. While he’s not sweating outside in the heat, Eric enjoys volunteering for nonprofit organizations that work with youth. Although he hopes to be a financial analyst in the future, he eventually wants to work with students as a counselor.

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