Reduce Test Anxiety In 7 Easy Steps
Preparing for a standardized exam isn’t just about studying the content and knowing the types of test questions; it is about being ready to manage stress and test anxiety. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious before and during a life-changing exam and test anxiety can be a crippling experience where you feel like all control is lost. To better prepare for the effects of stress and anxiety on test day, take a look at these relaxation techniques and strategies to help you stay calm and focused.
Be prepared for the test– plan, prepare, practice and stay organized
Make sure to have a study plan for the exam and prepare as much as possible to reduce anxiety. It is not a good idea to cram right before the test, so make sure you set plenty of time aside to be prepared and study the appropriate materials. When studying, make sure to use practice tests to help build stamina and become familiar with the test format and requirements. The more prepared you are for the exam, the less anxiety and stress you will have on test day. For more information on study plans, take a look at this 6-month study plan and 1-year study plan.
Exercise to reduce stress- get moving to manage your anxiety
During the preparation phase and before exam day, make sure to exercise and stay active. Exercise, whether it be lifting at the gym or running in your neighborhood, is an excellent way to increases endorphins and reduces stress hormones. When you complete a physical activity, your brain produces a “feel-good” transmitter called endorphins. These endorphins improve your mood, relax your body, and help you to focus and feel good about your testing experience. So, make sure to stay active and manage your anxiety through exercise.
Focus and tune out distractions- don’t let your mind wander
Focus on managing your time and space. The firsts thing to do on test day is to remove any distractions and focus only on your exam. Don’t feel pressured if others complete the exam early and are done with the test with time to spare. Take the time necessary to answer all questions and feel confident about your testing session. The exam is testing the knowledge you know, not what others are doing on test day.
Deep Breathing- use controlled breathing to help on test day
Deep and controlled breathing is a great way to help reduce stress during a big exam. When your body begins to feel stress and anxiety, the natural response is to increase air intake through rapid, shallow breaths. To slow down this response, you need to regain control and produce signs of relaxation. Through deep and controlled breathing, you encourage your muscles to work normally again and reduce anxiety. To do this, take five deep and controlled breaths to calm your nerves. With each breath, inhale (count to five while holding the air in your lungs) and exhale (counting to five while allowing a deep breath out). Take as many deep breaths as you need to regain composure and get back on the right track.
Muscle Relaxation- progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that teaches your body how to relax through a two-step process. The first step in the relaxation process is to deliberately and systematically tense a particular muscle group in your body. The next step is to then release that tension and relax each muscle slowly and deliberately. The exercise will lower your anxiety and release tension throughout the body. For example: target a specific muscle group on your body (shoulders, back, legs) and deliberately tense them by taking a deep breath and squeezing the muscle as hard as you can (without hurting yourself) for five seconds. Next, take a slow, relaxing breath and release the tension as you exhale. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Repeat this process with different muscles groups until you feel more relaxed and in control.
Use positive self-talk- talk away your negative emotions
Negative feelings can occasionally get in the way during a “life-altering” exam. One of the most common ways to gain control when you go down a negative path is to use positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is the act of intentionally taking a negative message or mistake and finding positive truths. An example of positive self-talk is as follows: You are in the middle of the exam and you start to freak out about a problem that you don’t completely understand. To help with your stress and get a positive mindset, you might say something along the lines of “Stop being negative! I studied for three months for this exam. This one little problem will not define my grade and I need to move on! I can do this….I just need to stay focused and do my best”
Set a reward for after the test- a gold sticker but better
Remember how great it felt to get a sticker on your elementary school exam? Take that idea and multiply it by 10 to create a reward that is meaningful and worth the effort. Think about something that will motivate you to do well and set that as your end reward on test day. When the testing session is over, reward yourself with a new outfit, dinner with friends, or a trip to the beach to relax and unwind. If you would like more was to decompress after a major exam, take a look at the following blog.
How can MINDSPIRE help with any exam?
At MINDSPIRE, we provide tutoring and test prep that is tailored to specific learning styles and individual needs. If you are interested in getting a tutor for any standardized exam, give us a call at 844-537-PREP (7737).