GUIDELINES FOR CONTROLLING TEST ANXIETY (Part A)
The following guidelines are designed to help manage the anxiety that may begin to develop a couple of weeks before any intense testing period. This anxiety is encountered by everyone to some degree, so rest assured that you are having "normal" reactions to test taking. The purpose of this guide is to help you keep your stress level within manageable limits.
USING ANXIETY OR STRESS LEVELS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Everyone needs some level of stress in order to motivate and energize them. Moderate levels of anxiety can become a great tool to get you to the goals you want to achieve. However, if these levels become too high, they can interfere with academic performance. This guide is to help you learn to recognize when your stress levels are becoming too high and interfering with performance and learning.
Common physiological indicators may be:
- General "nervousness," (i.e., tremors in the extremities, hyperactivity, nail biting, lip chewing, irritability, etc.)
- Sleep disturbances (usually can’t sleep)
- Gastrointestinal reactions (anywhere from upset stomach to vomiting)
- Frequent headaches
- Fatigue (again on a scale from worn out from not sleeping to exhausted from constant worry)
Common indicators directly related to studying:
- Extreme distractibility or inability to concentrate
- Difficulty in retaining material
- Lack of motivation: procrastination
- Feelings of being hopelessly overwhelmed by the volume of material to be learned
WHAT CAUSES STRESS OR ANXIETY AROUND TEST TAKING?
- Self-talk (with respect to the testing) that is characterized by predictions of failure, inadequacy of preparation, or other catastrophic events
- Severe procrastination (i.e., beginning to study too late, allowing personal problems to interfere with studying.)
- Trying to learn everything instead of sifting through the material to determine what is important
- Putting undue pressure on self to perform well on the test (i.e., pressure to the degree that good performance becomes an absolute demand instead of a highly desirable goal)
WHAT CAN I DO TO REDUCE STRESS OR ANXIETY BEFORE THE TEST?
- Divide the material to be covered into manageable units
- Develop a definite study schedule to help with time management and therefore minimize procrastination
- Schedule in time for rest, relaxation, and recreation (you need to get rid of the adrenaline build up in your body from the stress so exercise regularly)
- Try to maintain a regular time schedule (especially 2-3 weeks before a major exam); anything that contributes to stability at times of high stress is desirable
- Allow some decompression or relaxation time before going to sleep (at least an hour which includes a bedtime ritual that signals to your mind and body that it is time to turn off the study brain and engage the rest brain)
- Most importantly - do not ignore signs of stress. Acknowledge and deal with them in some fashion.
For a self assessment on Test Anxiety, go here.