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Am I Able to Reduce Test Anxiety?

Aug 17, 2007
Many students experience some level of anxiousness during a test. Nevertheless, it can be a drawback and result in reduced test scores when anxiety begins to influence exam performance.

There is an assortment of causes of test anxiety the most common being not having prepared properly and/or cramming for the test the night before. This is typically because of bad time management, not being organized and, of course, poor study habits.

A number of students also are bothered about how they did on past exams, how they are doing compared with their peers and other students in the class and the negative consequences of failing the test.

There are actually physical signs of test anxiety during an exam just as in any other demanding situation. Some of the more pronounced symptoms include sweaty palms, perspiration, upset stomach, elevated heart rate, headaches and general tenseness in muscles.

When a pupil has test anxiety, they become nervous which makes the reading and understanding of the questions on the exam more demanding. They have trouble keeping their thoughts structured, remembering concepts and key words when answering essay questions and end up doing poorly on the test even when they knew the material. Some students have mental blocking and go blank on some of the questions but then recall the correct answers when the test is over.

There are a few ways to reduce exam anxiety. You need to study and know the material well enough so that you can remember it even if you are under stress. You can't be lazy and have to learn how to practice good time management. Putting off and wasting time day-dreaming while trying to study are two main causes of test anxiety as the student isn't appropriately prepared.

You can build confidence by studying throughout the week/month/quarter/semester/year and avoid cramming the night before the exam. Thinking up questions from your textbooks and lecture notes helps you to concentrate on the lessons you are studying. Focus on significant words, key concepts and the examples in your textbook. When you can make a chart or outline it will help you organize the information in your book and notes. Relaxation techniques like taking long deep breaths to relax the body and reduce stress will help reduce the level of anxiety before an exam.

How you study can be affected by the environment around you where you pick to study. Check for the following circumstances such as the level of noise, if there are a lot of interruptions, adequate lighting, too hot or too cold temperatures, organization and neatness of actual study area, comfort of seating arrangement and having the tools necessary, i.e., books, notes, computer for research, etc.

Studying in an area where there is little distracting noise certainly helps. Many people need some noise while others prefer silence. Find what is ideal for you and try to study in that environment. Constantly checking your IM and chatting with family and friends, answering calls on your cell phone are all distractions and cut into your study time. Turn everything off and spend time later with your friends AFTER your homework and/or studying is finished.

Proper lighting is important because lighting that is too muted or too intense can be distracting and make the studying process more difficult. The room should be on the cool side rather than warm which tends to make people tired and sleepy. Have a big enough area to study in and spread your materials out so that you are not feeling cramped. Studying will go quicker if you take a couple of minutes at the beginning to get organized and straighten up your papers and notes. Try to study at a desk and chair rather than a lounging area. Studying in bed makes us too comfortable and we want to sleep or watch TV instead of study. Have the proper supplies readily available (books, paper, pens, computer, calculator, etc.) so that you don't have to waste time to go retrieve them.

How does one prepare or anticipate text anxiety? First one has to focus on the task at hand. Take one step at a time and think about what you are able to do about it instead of getting anxious. Clear thoughts and no negative, panicky thoughts are best. Worrying won't help anything and so just decide not to do it!

How does a student best confront and handle exam anxiety? Instead of feeling scared, just concentrate on what you have to do. Concentrate on relaxing and being in control. Take deep slow breaths. Stay with the lesson in your mind. If you start to feel anxious or tense, that can act as a reminder to not panic and relax with your breathing. Mentally remind yourself to just stay with the situation at hand and over time you will be able to train your brain and body to adapt this new style during test-taking.

Many students feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start sometimes. When you feel this way, just pause. Focus on the present and what steps you have to take to get done what you have to do. Don't try to eliminate fear totally; just try to manage it.
Convince yourself to do it. Reason your fear away. This is not the worst thing that can happen. Do something that will prevent you from thinking about fear. Describe your surroundings to yourself. That way you won't think about worrying.

Make self-statements that reinforce your progress. It worked! You did it! It wasn't as bad as you expected! You made more out of the fear than it was worth! You're progressing! You're learning to cope! You can be pleased with your progress! You like how you handled it! You can be proud of how you handled the situation! Pat yourself on the back when you have accomplished reducing your test anxiety so that it reinforces that feeling! This will help reinforce the positive thinking for the next time.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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