Many students suffer from serious test-taking anxiety, a kind of performance anxiety in which fear of failure overwhelms the students’ ability to take tests effectively. This anxiety can manifest itself in multiple ways. Students can “draw a blank” once they enter the test. Or, students may have symptoms before the test, including headaches, nausea, or shortness of breath. In more extreme cases, some students suffer from panic attacks.

Rather than feeling hopeless and helpless, students can employ a number of coping strategies for test-taking. Here are GAMECHANGER’s 6 suggestions for anxious test-takers. 

  1. Over-Prepare. Cramming for a test will significantly increase a student’s anxiety. Instead, establish a routine that enhances test-taking preparation. Students should learn as much as they can about the test before they start to prepare. Students should ask friends in the class or who took the class previously for study tips. Joining a study group also helps students to prepare. Drill and kill: take as many practice tests as possible. And, whenever necessary, work with a GAMECHANGER tutor who can help with study skills and course content to ensure that students are over-confident as they walk into a test. 
  2. Put things into perspective. Most of the time, one exam will not change the course of a student’s future. Most class grades do not depend on a single test. Students can even take the SAT, ACT, MCAT, GRE, and LSAT more than once, if necessary. Remember that one exam will not define a student. A student’s performance on a test is the sum of multiple factors, including comprehension, anxiety levels, expectations, study skills, and test-taking skills. 
  3. Visualize success. Visualize feeling clear-headed and confident. Use vivid, positive imagery and positive self-talk to stay focused and to reduce anxiety. Students should focus on past successes and remind themselves that they are capable. Remembering that ability to achieve can reduce students’ anxiety and help them to focus on test content rather than test fears. 
  4. Focus during the test. Students should leverage coping strategies to maintain focus during tests. If a student finds him/herself becoming distracted or anxious, the student should stop and regroup. Take a sip of water, take five deep breaths, or sharpen a pencil. Students should make sure that they are managing their time during a test, pacing themselves to help mitigate anxiety. If possible, include time to review your work. 
  5. Eat well, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. Doing a moderate workout before going to sleep will help students get a better night’s sleep. Waking up refreshed, a student will have more energy and less anxiety. A good night’s sleep will help students to think clearly. Most students who are well-rested are also healthier and more prepared to face the challenges of academia and daily life. Students should also have a well-balanced meal that fills them up, gives them energy, and keeps them going throughout a test. A meal with a lot of fruits and vegetables is the best option. And try to avoid caffeine, which tends to make people more anxious. 
  6. Arrive early and manage your space. Arriving early for any appointment gives a person time to decompress and reduce anxiety. Stay away from anyone else who seems frazzled and anxious, as it will be harder to stay calm. Students should set their belongings in an organized, familiar fashion once they are seated to ensure that they are ready to go as soon as the teacher hands out the test. Have extra pencils, erasers, and make sure all batteries are charged. 

Students must also recognize that the process of test-taking comes with some level of anxiety, no matter how confident a student walks into a test. Approach studying for tests seriously, but recognize that tests are like puzzles that students need to solve or games that students play. Students are there to collect points and find solutions. Making a few mistakes does not mean that the student will fail the test. By approaching the task at hand calmly, methodically, and confidently, the student positions him/herself for success. 

Contact GAMECHANGER for help managing test anxiety by building stronger test-taking skills and study skills.