Whether it’s the SAT, the ACT, a series of AP exams, or even a regular old test for your Biology class, you don’t like tests. But hey, who does? You know the date, and it’s already marked on your calendar with black ink and tiny skulls. You set your phone alarms 30 days in advance to make sure that you don’t sleep in the morning of. But even so, you still find yourself chewing through your fingernails or taking bits out of your hair in dread at the big exam that’s coming up.
If I’ve just described you, you should read on.
Test anxiety is something very common. Everyone suffers from it in some degree or another, and everyone shows it differently. When you show up to the exam and you see that some of the people there are cool and calm and collected, you never know if that’s who they are or if they’re just really good at hiding things. The important thing is to just take a deep breath and relax. You got this.
But I am going to offer you some tips and tricks to help get you over that test anxiety.
1. Study beforehand
By beforehand, I don’t mean “crack open the book right before” or “study for a day or two before the exam.” No, none of that. Most of the time when people freak out over a test, it’s because of poor preparation. You can completely avoid that by planning ahead. From the day you find out you have a test, start studying. A little bit each day, even if the professor hasn’t finished the current chapter. As the test draws nearer, study a little bit more, and a little bit more, and a little bit more. Once the day of the test arrives, you will find yourself much more confident in what you know. You will find that a great deal of your past nervousness will suddenly disappear because you have come prepared.
2. Avoid all-nighters/Get a good night’s rest
A lot of people seem to think all-nighters work. But the only thing all-nighters are successful at is making you exhausted. At around 2 or 3 in the morning, your brain will shut off. Information will no longer be retained, no matter how many energy drinks or coffee you ingest. You will show up to the test that morning, completely exhausted, and your mind will draw blanks when answering questions or solving problems. So, what to do before a test? Have a good meal for dinner, let it digest, watch some TV or read a book, and right before your bed, go over your notes. Get a full night’s sleep, in the morning, have a good breakfast, do some stretches, and then review a little bit before the test. If you do this, you will have a competitive advantage over your red-eyed classmates who pulled the all-nighters.
Frank Herbert, in the sci-fi classic Dune, writes “fear is the mind-killer,” and when it comes to tests, you will find these five words to be uncomfortably true. Fear is a natural response to stressful situations, it is basic animal instinct. What you have to do is face that fear with confidence. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and tell yourself, “I got this.” Believe in yourself. You’ve studied, you’ve worked hard, you’re energized, and, guess what? You are going to earn this. Your mind will try to play tricks on you, ignore it, ignore the guy turning his test in 30 minutes ahead of everyone, and ignore the guy next to you fidgeting with his pen. Tune them all out, take a deep breath, relax, and get to work. You’ve got this.
– Hugo R.