It’s not uncommon to experience anxiety before a quiz or exam. You can lessen that uncomfortable feeling by making sure your preparation is well planned—a.k.a., avoid cramming at the last minute.
Remember, like everything, testing requires practice. You can learn to be a good test taker, just as you can get to be a good learner. Here are some strategies to get you there.
- Over-prepare. When you know you are scheduled to have a quiz or exam in class, consider adopting a five-day test preparation plan. Use active-learning methods in every study session; reading the text and looking over lecture notes is not sufficient. Strive to organize, recite out loud, and recall the information repeatedly. Write yourself a test using the same type of questions that will be on the real test. This way you are predicting questions and organizing the way you learn the material.
- Prepare Every Day. Quiz yourself on previously learned the material and strived to learn new stuff every day. This daily effort allows you to absorb information at a slow and regular pace, leading to a better recall. Avoid situations where you have to cram for the test, which leads to increased test anxiety.
- Use Positive Affirmations. Negative self-talk can contribute to test anxiety and disrupt study sessions. If you spend all your mental energy worrying about a test, it will be difficult to input and recall information. Write yourself two or three positive affirmations about test preparation and test taking. Recite the affirmations any time you feel anxious. For more on positive affirmations, check out ABMP’s Affirmation Worksheet.
- Breathe. When you feel the first threads of anxiety, stop yourself from entering the stress cycle by breathing deeply. Sit with your legs shoulder-width apart and your spine straight. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Feel yourself take deep breaths in and out. Notice your muscles and try a progressive relaxation. Start by tensing your face muscles and then letting them relax. Next, tense your shoulders and then let them relax. Tense your gluteal muscles and legs and let them relax. Tense your arms and hands and let them relax. Finally, tense your feet and toes and then let them relax. Go back to your breath and focus on your breath. Repeat a positive affirmation on each exhalation. Remember, you don’t have to eliminate anxiety altogether, you just have to control it enough to take the test successfully.
- Warm Up. To warm up for the test, try writing a quiz with questions that you know and answer it while you wait for class to begin. When the test is passed out, answer all of the questions you know first to give your brain a chance to adapt to the presentation style of the test.
- Prepare Some More. Download the Exam Preparation Form from the Picked Fresh section of this newsletter and use it to prepare for quizzes and exams. This way helps you organize productive study sessions.
Before you blame test anxiety for poor performance on a test, evaluate your test-preparation strategy. Remember to attend all classes, maintain a reasonable study plan, hold regular study sessions, and allow enough time for test preparation.