Have you ever “gone blank” or felt paralyzed by fear while studying or taking a test? If so, you may have experienced test anxiety. Although it’s normal to feel nervous before a big test (mild excitement can even keep you alert and adrenalized), sometimes healthy energy gives way to distracting distress. This blog entry will identify a few symptoms of and provide some suggestions for managing test anxiety.
Common Symptoms of Test-Anxiety:
— Physical symptoms: sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, lightheadedness
— Thoughts of Worry and Dread: Uncontrollable, self-deprecating and overdramatic thoughts like “I’m bad at taking tests,” “I can’t do this,” or “I’m going to fail.”
— Impairment: Inability to focus, “going blank” and confusion
What to do if you’re experiencing test anxiety:
— If you are having troubling thoughts, accept them and try to move on: Automatic thoughts like, “I’m bad at taking tests,” “I can’t do this,” or “I’m going to fail,” may feel fleetingly good, since they provide an excuse to not try, but they are ultimately useless and untrue. If you find yourself bombarded by such thoughts, accept their presence, and then try to refocus and move on.
— Remind yourself that you are more than your score: Your test score is not a measure of your talent, abilities or worth as a person. It only measures your knowledge and how hard you have studied. If you are not doing well, simply use this as a wake-up call to work harder in the future.
— Prepare for the Test: This should be obvious. It is highly unlikely you will do well on a test for which you are unprepared. Thoroughly review test directions, format and covered material so you know what to expect on test day.
— Do NOT compare yourself to others: However well or poorly others are doing is not relevant to your own performance. In fact, comparing yourself to others will only give you a false sense of security and/or dread. How about using some of this contemplative energy to prepare for the test?
— Take a break: If you become anxious while studying, go for a walk, call a friend or watch TV to calm down. If you start to panic during the test, take a break while in your seat. Close your eyes and try some deep breathing, or repeat a relaxing and encouraging mantra. Don’t worry about wasting time: you will use your time more effectively if you are able to calm down and focus.
— Set realistic goals: Be mindful of the tremendous space between perfection and failure. Just because you didn’t get 100%, doesn’t mean you haven’t succeeded or done well.
— Finally, remember that there is always a second chance: There is always hope, even in the most seemingly bleak situations. Don’t forget that you can (and most people do) retake college entrance examinations if something went wrong, if you were unprepared, or if you just feel you can do better.