Have you ever blanked out on a test? Have you ever felt so nervous that you forgot everything you studied? Have you ever gotten physically sick because an exam was coming up?
Almost everyone feels nervous or experiences some anxiety as an exam is approaching! A lot of anxiety before an exam you might be struggling with test anxiety.
Check out my video on test anxiety
Test anxiety symptoms fall into a few categories:
Physical - headaches, nausea, tightness in chest, shortness of breath, light-headedness or fainting, heart beat changes, and feeling extremely hot or cold
Emotional - Feeling scared, sad, crying out of nowhere, or feeling helpless
Behavioral - Engaging in anxious behaviors such as nail biting or hair pulling, and avoidance such as skipping class on the day of your exam
Cognitive - Racing thoughts, 'going blank', difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk
If you have faced test anxiety, take the following steps:
Step 1: Self awareness
What are you thinking about?
What is making you feel anxiety?
What are you worried will happen?
How rational are theses thought?
Does your brain have filters? Check out my video/blog on cognitive filters if you haven’t already to see if any of these thoughts are stand-in gin your way
Step 2: Pay attention to your self-talk
How we think has a big effect on how we feel. When we think that something bad will happen – such as failing a test – we feel anxious. If you are about to take a huge test and your thought is “I am going to fail” your body picks up on those frequencies and in turn you become more anxious. If instead you think- “I studied, and attended class, I’ll pass” , your body begins to calm down.
Even if you find it hard to think this way, just repeating this to yourself will help
Step 3: Challenge your anxious thoughts
Just because you feel like you are going to fail does not mean you are going to fail, take a step back and ask yourself these questions
Am I falling into a thinking trap/cognitive distortion?
Where is the evidence that I will fail this test?
What would I tell a friend that is feeling this way?
How many times has this happened before?
If it did happen, what can I do to make cope?
Step 4: Preparation is key
Be prepared: Attend class, do homework, ask the professor when you don’t understand
Study but don’t cram: Study for 45 minutes at a time. I recommend taking 30 minutes to 1 hour breaks after every 45-minute study session. If that’s not possible for you then at least break for 15 minutes, go outside, call a friend or do something completely separate than studying
Continuously engage in positive self-talk: Don’t just try it on the day of the test
Exercise to get out excess jitters: Any type of exercise is okay. If you’re not sporty, take walks outside without your phone and just enjoy the scenery
Get a good night’s sleep the week before the exam: Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night for at least 7 nights before the exam
Take deep breaths daily: Practice deep breathing in the morning, and before bed to prepare yourself in case you become anxious during the exam. This will come in handy if you have been practicing
What to do on exam day:
Eat breakfast: with fiber fruits and vegetables
Skip the coffee: Decaf might be okay but it might be a good idea to have a calming tea such as chamomile
Arrive early to the test
When you get the test skim through all the questions
Start with the easy questions
If you don’t understand one of the questions, ask your professor or teacher. The professor may not give you the answer or hints but they may clarify the question
Don’t pay attention to anyone else: People move at different paces and it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing
Set up a fun activity to do after the exam such as going to grab lunch with a friend: Having fun plans for after the exam can help ease your nerves and look forward to something
Don’t rush try to take the entire time and if you finish early, review your answers
If you being to panic:
Take deep breaths and remember yourself positive self-talk
Ask to step outside and go to the bathroom: This will take away time from the test, but you might be able to calm yourself down before coming back in
Take a sip of water or have a bite of your snack if possible
Close your eyes for a minute and remind yourself that no matter what happens, it will be okay
Trust your intuition, this is not a time for self-doubt: If you get a gut feeling about the answer go with it
If you have tried all of this and you still panic on test day, then consider talking to your professor or advisor. Most schools and colleges can offer accommodations such as:
Each school is different so make sure to ask about what resources are available to you
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Micheline Maalouf, M.S. is the founder and owner of Serein Counseling, LLC in Orlando Florida. She specializes in working with individuals who are dealing with anxiety including: generalized anxiety, social anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Micheline is certified in mindfulness and incorporates these practiced into all her sessions with clients to ensure they achieve the best results. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call today for a free 20-minute consultation (407) 721-6453