Coping With Test Anxiety and Assessment Stress

students taking a test
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Tests can be stressful even for the most prepared students, and often the brightest and most committed students can experience the most stress before an exam. Unfortunately, test anxiety can actually have a negative impact on your performance, even among gifted students and high achievers, and particularly among perfectionists.

Well, fear not: there are several steps you can take before an exam and even during it that can minimize the pressure you feel, maximize the sense of confidence you have, and make your stress levels much more manageable.

While tests may never be fun and non-stressful, they can be far easier to take once you have test anxiety under control and are armed with tools for battling it.

The following test anxiety busters can help you get through your next test with much greater ease—and likely more success!

Get Enough Sleep

Getting less than 6 hours of sleep can put you into what’s called a sleep deficit, or lack of sufficient sleep. Having a sleep deficiency can actually make you less sharp mentally, which can negatively affect your performance on tests, even if you spent those missed hours of sleep studying. So it’s very important for you to get all of your studying done so you can get a good night of sleep before your big day. 

Study Smarter

Being organized with your studies can help you keep from pulling all-nighters to get all of your studying in and blowing the test because you’re exhausted (see above). How do you study ‘smarter’? Make a list of the most important things you need to learn, in order of importance, and hit the items at the top of the list first. (That way, if you run out of time, you’re mostly covered.)

Make a list of all the work you have to do, estimate how much time each item will take, and compare that with the number of hours you have available. This will tell you if you can carefully read (or just skim), how many times you can afford to revise papers and other ways to pace yourself so you can get everything done. (If you’re pressed for time, it’s important to check your perfectionist tendencies at the door.) Oh, and turn off the television as much as possible until your tests are behind you.

Visualize Success

A great way to build your confidence as you fall asleep each night is to visualize yourself taking the tests and doing wonderfully. Detailed visualizations can help you feel like you’re really experiencing something, and visualizing yourself doing well is a way to ‘practice’ success in a way that can actually help you perform better. (Being confident as you take your exams can keep you from choking because of the stress.) Visualizations can also help you to remember facts: you can create detailed scenarios that involve the information you’re trying to remember, and this can help cement the facts in your memory.

Stay Calm 

Because stress can impair your memory, it’s important to stay calm before and during tests. While that’s easier said than done, there are several stress relief techniques that can help you calm down quickly whenever you feel overwhelmed. For example, breathing exercises have been shown by research to reduce test anxiety, and can be extremely effective in helping you relax and reverse your stress response in a variety of situations: just take deep breaths, expanding your belly on the inhale, and let the stress come out with your exhales. 

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