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3 Tips for Dealing with Test Taking Stress

Whether it’s finals week or the middle of the semester, tests can cause major stress. Relaxing before and during a test is imperative to doing well, so rather than pulling an all-nighter while drinking seven cups of coffee, check out these three key areas in dealing with test anxiety.

Prepare Before Test Day

Make sure that you are doing your due diligence in preparing for the test prior to actually taking it. You can feel a lot more confident going into a test if you know that you have properly studied the material and understand it well. A few weeks before the test, start studying the material. Break up each study session into two sections: ten minutes of review and twenty minutes of learning new material. Each day, as you constantly review the learned material, you give that information ample opportunity to enter your long-term memory, making it easier to call to mind during the test.
After each half-hour interval, take a brief 5-minute break to meditate. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths as you try to clear your mind. If you can meditate on gratitude and positive thoughts about yourself, even better! You can learn more about how positive thoughts can affect your body and mental health at this Huffington Post article.

Take Care of Yourself the Day of the Test

While it may seem like a great idea to guzzle coffee and getting in a last-minute cram session, research consistently shows that those who are more rested will perform better on tests than their exhausted counterparts. So the night before the test, relax, drink a cup of herbal tea, and go to bed early. Your brain will thank you when you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, as opposed to groggy, foggy, and like you want to punch your alarm clock in the throat.

Dress in Whatever Makes You Feel Confident

The New York Times reported on research done by Northwest University where Dr. Adam D. Galinsky found that dressing well positively affects how people perform on tests. This doesn’t mean that you should wear a ball gown or tuxedo to your school or test site because the clothes only matter in what they mean to you, so wear what makes you feel the most confident and capable, whether that’s a blazer, a dress, or a cute top with some jeans.
Eat a good breakfast. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea, since hunger can make you distracted, and a lack of energy can take away from your brain’s ability to function to its fullest potential. Keep it light, so that your body doesn’t have to spend a lot of energy on digesting what you’ve eaten; going into food coma won’t earn the score you’re hoping for. Try something like a couple of eggs with some fruit.

Relax During the Test

Sounds like a contradiction, right? When you sit down, take a minute to think some thoughts of gratitude, and remind yourself that you were thorough in preparing every reasonable way for this test. Take some deep breaths and calm yourself (you should be pretty good at this if you were attentive in step 1!). Feel free to take some deep breaths throughout the exam to maintain a calm and positive attitude. When you’re taking your test, know that your first hunch is usually your best hunch. It’s hard not to assume that the test is asking a trick question. However, statistically speaking, you’re more likely to second-guess yourself into a wrong answer than a correct one. If you’re not sure, then leave it and continue with the test. If you have extra time, go back and look at it as reasonably and objectively as you can. If you’re really stumped, you can ask the proctor or instructor for help. You can explain how you feel two answers are right and see what they say. A nice teacher may help you out. Other teachers and proctors may say that they’re not allowed to assist. That’s okay; at least now you know.

Even if the test seemed easy, always go back through and look it over. Catch the hurried mistakes, make sure you answered all of the questions, and check for any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Before handing it in, ask yourself whether or not you feel good about it. Why or why not? Is there anything that can be done now to make yourself feel better about it? Use this moment to inform how you will prepare for future tests.

Hopefully, these tips will help you approach exams with greater confidence and have more test-taking tools in your arsenal—anyone remember the “just put C” days? Remember that tests are designed to gauge your learning. Keep breathing deeply and telling yourself that you are a good test-taker and that you’re going to do well. Remember to focus on gratitude and the fact that your hard work will show on whatever you endeavor.

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