Test anxiety doesn’t have to be all bad.
Despite butterflies in the stomach, clammy palms, and lightheadedness that the morning of a test can cause, a healthy amount of test anxiety can actually be motivating.
People who have experienced test anxiety will go a long way to avoid that feeling again—including making time to get mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared. KD College Prep President, David Dillard, recently discussed this topic on Fox 4 News in DFW. For even more tips, read on.
1. Mental Preparation
Let’s be honest. A lot of test anxiety comes from not being sure you really know your stuff.
Students who study well have the confidence that they’ve memorized their flashcards backward and forwards. They’ve done all the reading—and answered the study questions too. They’ve not only taken good notes but also typed them up.
When they’re facing a test like the SAT® test, they know how to evaluate the question to find out what they’re really being asked.
Most tests aren’t pop quizzes, meaning they are scheduled well in advance.
Create a study plan and stick to it. This is one of the best ways to alleviate the type of test anxiety that comes from not feeling sure about finding the correct answers during test time.
Mental preparation takes away more than half of the butterflies, and test experience takes care of the rest of them.
2. Physical Preparation
Although students use their minds to take tests, the brain is housed in a body that affects its performance.
Here are some easy ways to optimize your physical condition for test day.
Get a good night’s sleep. Tired brains don’t do the clearest thinking, so make sure yours is well rested.
Eat a good breakfast. Most nutritionists agree that a protein-heavy morning meal keeps you feeling satisfied longest.
Wear layers of clothing. No matter the condition of the testing room, you want your body to be neither too hot nor too cold, so dress for all seasons.
Stay hydrated. Hydration specifically means water, so bring a water bottle to the test. (Avoid caffeine because it could wear off mid-test. If you’re tired on test day, you didn’t sleep enough.)
Although these tips are particularly good on test day, getting enough rest, food, and water all the time is highly recommended! Your brain will thank you for taking care of your body.
3. Emotional Preparation
Being emotionally prepared for the test is where things can get gritty.
Yes, tests are important—maybe even life-changing. But most of the time, one single test isn’t going to make or break your life.
Take the power away from the test. Separating your self-worth from tests is an extremely valuable lesson to learn early. Do your absolute best on a test, but don’t let the result define you.
Think through the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the most likely scenario. Most likely, you’ll do better than just okay, meaning you will be that much closer to achieving your goals. (Plus by that time, the test itself will be long since over.)
A lot of test anxiety comes from putting too much importance on test results. A person is so much more than a number.
Very Important Note: If your anxiety is incapacitating or if you have a panic attack, talk to a trusted adult about getting medical help.
Accepting yourself apart from the test is a key part of emotional test preparation.
Whether you call it deep breathing, belly breathing, or slow breathing, it can help you calm down. Really and truly, breathing calmly can calm you.
- Exhale fully through your mouth by pulling in your stomach until your lungs are empty.
- Pause for 2 to 7 seconds or whatever feels comfortable.
- Inhale slowly through your nose. Your stomach should pooch out to show you are filling the bottom of your lungs. (If your shoulders are going up instead, you’re taking a shallow breath.)
- Pause again.
Anxious feelings tend to speed up your heart rate. On a slow, controlled exhale, your heartbeat regulates itself. On a cycle of slow, controlled exhaling, your heartbeat calms down, and so does the rest of you.
Breathe deeply for one minute. Your heart should stop racing, your lightheadedness should disappear, and your stomach should feel more stable.
If you’ve prepared your mind, body, and emotions, you just need to take some deep breaths before you start your test.