Do you have test anxiety?

If you answered yes, then you might be one of my students!

All of my students have test anxiety. From straight-A students to straight-C students to almost-straight-F students, everyone worries about tests. I won’t go into the reasons in this post. One of my students recently asked what she could do about it, and so I wanted to share the information with you.

There are many books out there on the topic of relieving stress and anxiety, and any of them can apply to test anxiety. Check back later for another post on how to reduce anxiety overall. Right now, here are some quick tips for CALMING DOWN andreducing anxiety on the day of the test.

1) Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing ALWAYS helps. It slows the pulse, which slows the adrenaline pumping through your system. This brings you back from the fight-or-flight mode that adrenaline puts you in. You’ll be able to focus better once you’re no longer freaking out.

2) If you’re taking a math-related test, as soon as you get the test, write down all the formulas that you’ll need on this test. For example, if it’s a Geometry test about right triangles, you’ll probably need the Pythagorean Theorem and the special right triangles’ ratios, so write them down at the top of the page AS SOON AS YOU GET THE TEST. Doing this will remove the stress you have about needing to remember the formulas. Now you have two (or three!) fewer things to remember for the whole hour, because if you need them, you can just turn back to the front of the page and look at them. Less stress equals less test anxiety.

3) Look at the problem you’re working on. No, really look at it. Focus on each letter and number until you’re only seeing that one problem. Many students focus too widely on the whole page, which causes the problem you’re working on to jumble with all the rest. When everything jumbles together, it becomes a mess and you can’t make out anything, so of course you’re going to get anxious. Truly look at the problem you’re working on, and things will come into focus.

4) Think about one problem at a time. You might think, “of course I’m thinking about one problem!” but you really aren’t. This tip goes with the previous one: focus on the one problem at hand. Our minds tend to wander, and we start to think about the 50 other things we have to do or the 20 other problems on the test. So now, you’re thinking about 20 different problems, and how are you going to do them all???

Take some more deep breaths. Then look at the problem. Then think about it. (One of the formulas you wrote at the top of the page will probably help. If not…) What is the problem telling you? What is it asking you? What do you need to solve it? Focus on the problem at hand, and it won’t be too overwhelming. Take it in small pieces, one problem at a time.

And lastly, BREATHE!

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