Written by Jessica Martin
1. Start studying for the test at least a week in advance By starting your study process early, you are not only making yourself more familiar with the information than cramming for 12 hours in the library right before the test, but also reducing the pressure to learn the information. If you start studying a week or more in advance, you won’t feel the weight of all of the material crushing down on you. Instead, you can break it up into chunks and tackle each piece throughout the week and if you hit any bumps along the way there is still time to reach out to your professor or TA for help on difficult topics. So, if you study in advance it makes studying less stressful and you will retain the knowledge better which will make it easier to recall during the test.
2. Get to your test early This one seems a little strange, but believe me, it helps. No no one wants to be the person who walks in to the exam late desperately looking for the one empty seat hidden in the swarm of 300 other people. Arriving early will prevent this, but also give you time to find a seat, and prepare your space. Taking the time to consciously prepare your space by taking out all the materials you will need for the test can actually be empowering. By creating your own work-space, you are making the area your own rather than just another desk in a lecture hall, which will help you enter the exam as stress free as possible.
3. Practice meditative breathing (before & during the test) Believe me, this really helps. There are plenty of resources out there to find music to practice breathing to, including some on the Counseling & Psychological Services website. If you familiarize yourself with a breathing technique before the test, you will be able to use it while you are in the exam as well.
You don’t need music for this, you just need to take deep, slow breaths and try to clear your mind of your stressors. The breathing will lower your heart rate considerably to help clear your mind and calm you down if you start to panic at any point within the test.
4. Avoid hard problems (at first) When you get the actual test, go through all of the questions and answer the easy ones first and mark the difficult that you need to come back to, as the harder questions are ones that tend to create panic. By skipping past problems that are confusing to you or require a little extra thought, you will guarantee that you get through all of the things that you do know with a clear mind and get all of the points that you deserve, rather than spending all of your test time on one problem and not finishing the test. 5. Submit the test Once you have completed your exam and have checked through your answers once (if that’s your test-taking style), it’s time to submit. Although it can be tempting to just stare at the test and try to find inspiration or wait to get struck with the correct answer, it is likely causing more stress than help. There comes a time when you must admit to yourself that you just don’t know the answer to every question, and that’s perfectly okay! So make your best educated guess, and turn it in. 6. Don’t be afraid to seek help. If test anxiety is truly something that is hindering your academic success, there is absolutely no shame in seeking help. There are resources on campus that are free to you, such as Counseling & Psychological Services, that are there to help you through these types of problems. It can be scary to admit to the fact that you need a little help, but it's important to remember that you are never alone in struggling with anxiety.