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Tips to Ease Test-Taking Anxiety

“I have a test to study for.” I decide to study all weekend until it is clear that I have studied everything. I cover the study guide, the notes, and the book. I am well-prepared. I’m nervous before we receive the test, and I’m checking that I have my five pencils, eraser, watch, and water bottle right next to me. Once the test begins, I think about how much time is left and excessively fidget in my seat, and my eyes wander towards the clock in the corner of the room despite having a watch on my wrist. And then halfway through, I need a bathroom break, but I am very behind, and we are running out of time. 

Let’s fast forward to today. I would say I’ve been a successful student, but the majority of my tests precipitated internal chaos, and many therefore did not go well. How have I overcome this? One of the first steps I took was to acknowledge that I can get anxious and to make sure that I always remember to breathe. I highly recommend taking up to thirty seconds to just breathe if you find yourself panicking, sweating, and starting to feel a lump in your throat or your stomach. Take some slow, deep breaths, and do a few wrist stretches. Furthermore, if any single question is causing you anxiety and you begin fixating on it, you should guess, skip the question, and/or come back to it later. Especially on multiple-choice tests! 

Also, do not over-caffeinate! Caffeine contributes to the anxious feeling, so it’s okay to have your morning coffee or tea, but you do not need to be extra alert during your test. In fact, come up with a study routine that you can implement on test day. If you have certain clothes, foods, or habits that keep you calm when studying, definitely incorporate these small things on your test day. You can also work in some aerobic exercise, as this releases endorphins and helps you relax. Also, be sure to eat healthy foods, hydrate and prepare for your test. Anxiety only worsens when you are unprepared, so it is important to figure out how to study. If you feel lost during studying, ask for help from your mentor or your teacher! 

While some of these things may seem trivial, all of these suggestions can have a comforting effect during your test and therefore enable you to show off everything you have worked so hard to learn. 

Next: test day! I suggest getting to your testing site or classroom early and making sure that you know where the bathrooms are. If you are taking a test such as the ACT or SAT, this can help you feel at ease before starting your test while avoiding the stress of running late. It is definitely possible to overcome the bubble of anxiousness during tests, but do not ignore how you feel. If you think you are having difficulty learning, it’s important to talk to your parents, counselor, and/or advisor so that you can begin receiving the accommodations you might need to do well. 

Finally, stay positive! If you catch yourself in a moment of despair, smile and think of something to lift you up. It can feel overwhelming in the hours, minutes, and seconds of testing, but taking care of yourself and preparing properly can help you ace your test.