I am one of those people who gets nervous and stressed when it’s time to take a test. How do you get over those feelings? If you are someone like me who gets these emotions before, during and after a test it can feel impossible to calm down. There are many ways you can go about reducing the anxiety and stress.
I recently spoke with Sarah Wood, a professor in the psychology department.
Dr. Wood’s tips
One important thing to recognize is that some amount of stress is good. We actually perform best on exams when we experience a moderate amount of stress, Wood said.
Obviously, too much stress can make you uncomfortable and hurt your concentration. To reduce stress and anxiety associated with exams, be prepared, Wood said.
- Get enough sleep and get enough (healthy) food to eat. Also, exercising isn’t a bad idea.
- Develop good study skills. All studying is not created equal. Many students do not spend enough time studying, or the time they do spend is ineffective. The approach you take to studying might depend on the material you have to learn. However, for most exams simply attempting to memorize things will not be enough. This is true even for things like multiple choice tests. Furthermore, cramming is likely to make anxiety worse. Spread your studying out over multiple days and weeks.
- Learn how to take tests. There are different strategies for different formats and lots of resources available with advice about test-taking strategies. Bottom line: think ahead about your approach and then use it.
- Learn how to relax. If you feel anxious when taking the exam (e.g., sweaty palms, racing heart, difficulty concentrating, etc.) you can learn coping techniques. For example, you can concentrate on taking slow deep breaths or relaxing your muscles. Relaxation techniques should be practiced prior to the exam so you can easily use them when you need to and get back to focusing on your exam.
If someone is experiencing overwhelming anxiety regularly, they should talk to someone at the Counseling Center (http://www.uwstout.edu/counsel/). The staff is trained to provide advice and support tailored to someone’s specific situation.
A lot of my tips are the same as Dr. Wood’s, but here are some tips that have worked for me. (Keep in mind, I am not by any means an expert on this.)
- Don’t cram. Do not wait till the last minute to study and cram everything into your brain. It adds more stress and you are less likely to retain information.
- Make a schedule. Plan when you are going to study so that nothing can stop you from it.
- Take your time with the test. Never rush. You will feel more confident with your choices and you will stay relaxed.
- Go into the test with a positive outlook. You can do it! It’s all about self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you are going to fail, you will.