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7 ways to relieve test anxiety

Preparing for exams is critical for success.
Preparing for exams is critical for success.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Testing anxiety got you down? Experts agree that traditional students feel nervous before exams. However, for some it can be a debilitating factor that affects performance.

Due to the factors surrounding anxiety related to testing, some experts feel that summative assessment is no longer a good measure of a students ability. Nevertheless, changing standards to all formative assessment doesn’t seem to be a priority for educators in the near future.

As individuals, students experience different forms and levels of testing anxiety. Symptoms can include shaking, sweating, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, negative thinking, comparing yourself to other student in the class, and fear of forgetting all you studied.

Often times test anxiety is linked with procrastination, last minute cramming, and an overall lack of preparedness for the exam. These behaviors can lead to the brain disorganizing information, anxiety, and self-doubt.

Often the simplest way to ease test anxiety is with being prepared. Other times it is due to the pressure put on the student by themselves, a parent, or role-model that creates the fear.

Here are some tricks that an help ease that tension and increase performance on exams.

Prepare Mentally
Prepare Mentally

Prepare Mentally

1. Journal

By writing down your fears and anxieties students can help themselves release them. This allows learners to clear their minds from the distractions anxiety poses. Thus improving testing, memory skills, and cognitive function. According to the journal Science, students greatly benefit from this activity in exam settings.

2. Be Positive

Being positive can help your body relax and your mind stay focused. According to a Berkley Therapist, for every negative anxiety writing a positive response allows the student to free their mind from the undesirable clutter. Additionally, being positive can enhance natural body responses the opposite of the fears associated with testing anxiety.

Prepare Physically
Prepare Physically

Prepare Physically

1. Eat Healthy

Remember that eating food prior to taking an exam helps to keep your concentration levels up. It also can relieve stress or anxiety. It does matter though, what you are eating. Fruit and veggies help to de-stress you prior to exam time. While, processed foods increase the anxiety. Additionally, protein (think eggs, fish, nuts, protein bars, or lean steak) helps to provide you with lasting energy. Whereas lipids and many carbohydrates can make you feel tired and slowed down. One exception, having a single square of dark chocolate which can enhance brain function and give you a tiny caffeine boost). Long used herbs like Green Tea and Chamomile also help relax the body naturally. But be sure you stay hydrated during the exam as well.

2. Keep your Body Healthy

Exercise is a huge player in physical and mental well being. Exercise can reduce stress, depression and anxiety. By staying fit and healthy you can improve testing anxiety, and according to Lesley Cottrell (professor of pediatrics) better test scores. Prior to your exam sit outside in a quiet area and close your eyes. Then work each muscle group in your feet, calves, upper legs, abdomen, arms/hands, shoulders/neck, face/jaw by tensing for 5 – 8 seconds and then releasing. Follow each isometric exercise with 2 slow deep breaths. This will release excess energy and tension helping to reduce anxiety.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Many of us are incredibly busy with work, extra curriculars, families, and other commitments on top of school. Often this leads to a lack of sleep. However, sleep helps to stabilize your mood, keep you healthy, increase your attention span, better your focus, and improves concentration. It is critical to get a good night sleep prior to exam day, in order to keep your mind and body at the top of its game.

Prepare Academically
Prepare Academically

Prepare Academically

1. Enhance your Senses

There has long been a connection with the sense of smell and memory. When the body smells something that was fragrant during previous experiences, those remembrances come rushing back to you. This can be used to your advantage when studying. Lavendar is a relaxing essential oil that can also improve concentration. By burning a lavender candle while studying, and then using lavender essential oils before the exam, this smell – memory connection can be triggered to help enhance your learning ability. Pepermint may also help you to keep alert and focus during boring study periods or long lectures, as well as focus you during an exam.

2. Study Buddies

There is something to be said for preparation for an exam, to help relieve anxiety and really improve your success. Many people find that studying with another student, parent, or friend helps better prepare through deeper learning and understanding of the content. When we study with someone we are often explaining concepts and ideas that we have not fully mastered, helping to cement the ideas into your mind, for easier recall during testing situations. Additionally studying with other students help keep you accountable for diligently preparing for the upcoming exam, and allocating the appropriate time necessary to practice.

Studying and exam preparation becomes more intense as you progress throughout school. Studying for tests by reading notes and the book, is not sufficient beyond high school. College level exams require additional detail in comprehension, critical thinking, analyzing, and application of content to prove mastery. Organizing material, using additional resources outside of course material, and applying what you learn are critical to exam success.

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