Health, Exercise, Diet, Rest, Self-Image, Motivation, and Attitudes
Health, Exercise, Diet, and Rest
One reason for test anxiety is poor mental or physical health. These, in turn, often result from poor eating, sleeping and exercising habits. The following guidelines help to reduce test anxiety resulting from poor health.
Get a good night's sleep, or one's normal amount of sleep, each day for several days before the test. All-nighters often don't catch up with a person until two days later, so lack of sleep even several days before the test can affect performance.
Exercise or do something fun to burn off extra energy. Non-studying activities help to take one's mind off worries and concerns about the test. They also serve as outlets for anger and other negative emotions that feed anxiety.
Eat a balanced meal before the test, especially if you are accustomed to eating that meal. For example, don't skip breakfast if you normally eat it just because you have butterflies about the test. A high carbohydrate dinner the night before helps to raise energy levels. Get a drink of water before the test, or take a lidded cup in with you if permitted.
Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine as it may cause jitters. Use only small amounts of caffeine occasionally to maintain attention. Use only coffee, tea or soda pop as sources of caffeine. Do not use over-the-counter or prescription stimulants.
If you experience strong physical reactions to anxiety, like butterflies or headache, visualize where they are in your body and describe them to yourself. This may help to alleviate them without medication.
Visit the testing room ahead of time to note the temperature of the room. Dress accordingly. Or better yet, dress in layers so that you may adjust to changes in temperature.
Self-Image, Motivation, and Attitudes
Several causes of test anxiety are related to internal aspects of the student, including self-image, motivation, and attitudes. Specifically, students may experience test anxiety if they have negative self-images and lack confidence in their abilities, if they dislike the subject, course, and/or instructor, or if they have histories of poor performance on exams in general or in the course.
Students' mental states can greatly affect their performance on exams and their vulnerability to test anxiety. And as Kesselman-Turkel and Peterson (1981) note, for standardized tests like ACT and SAT, mental preparation is sometimes the only preparation one can do for a test. The following paragraphs outline strategies for heading off or dealing with test anxiety that results from internal sources.
Students often develop negative self-images when they experience failures on exams, especially if they feel they didn't receive the grade they deserved. This may translate into heightened anxiety on future exams. While self-image is covered in detail in the Attention and Listening page, some general tips are given here.
First, try to focus on past testing successes. Learn from past failures, but don't dwell on them. Consider what you did differently to prepare for tests on which you were successful versus tests that went poorly. Can you see the cause and effect relationships? Repeat those actions that made you successful and alter those that resulted in failure.
Second, engage in positive self-talk. Generate a list of your positive qualities and remind yourself of them by posting them in your room or repeating them to yourself periodically. Then make a more specific list of the positive aspects of your exam preparation. Repeat them to yourself when you feel anxious. Ignore negative comments from classmates, especially while waiting for the exam to be distributed. Realize that these students are negative because they, unlike you, are unprepared.
The Motivation page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack contains general strategies on creating interest in a subject or course. To get motivated to prepare for and take a test, try the following tips.
Get motivated to begin test preparation early by reflecting on past exam failures that resulted from procrastination. Learn from past mistakes. Remind yourself that every half-hour or hour spent studying well before the test is one or two more correct answers. And remind yourself that the more preparation completed ahead of time, the less to worry about the night before the test and the less to do to prepare for comprehensive finals. Reflect on your short-term and long-term goals that may be fulfilled by passing the test and the course.
Before leaving for the test or while walking to the room, listen to your favorite song on the stereo or Walkman in order to get your blood flowing. It's not a bad idea to listen in the classroom before tests are distributed as well. Your favorite song will get you motivated and will prevent you from hearing negative comments from poorly prepared classmates.
Students should do everything they can to bolster confidence in their exam preparation and test-taking abilities. Confidence can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety because if one believes he/she will do well, he/she probably will.
Over preparation for the exam is a good way to improve confidence. Know the information "backwards and forwards" and be sure of your understanding. Take self-tests or have another student quiz you to prove to yourself that you've mastered the material.
Refer to the pages on Test Taking and Test Preparation strategies for suggestions on improving testing skills. Knowing the "tricks of the trade" often helps students to gain confidence because they know how to respond to different, and possibly unexpected, exam requirements.
Another thing to try is studying in the room where the exam will be given. It helps one to feel more comfortable in his/her surroundings. In addition, try not to think about what the best student in the course is doing to prepare for the exam; concentrate on yourself.