Testing Jitters: Move from Anxiety to Confidence

Does the very thought of taking a test make you want to turn and run?

You are not alone. Most people feel nervous to some extent about taking tests. Anxiety can impair your performance on exams, so it’s important to turn anxiety into motivation. Here are some strategies to help you be well prepared and feel confident while taking an exam.

Manage your thoughts about testing.

If you tell yourself you can’t be successful or that your whole life is riding on that one test, you run the risk of believing your own negative thoughts.  Instead, try to re-focus your thinking:

  • Relax with deep breathing (remember to exhale completely) and gentle stretching exercises. Also try tensing and relaxing shoulders and other muscle groups. A short workout before testing may also help.
  • Visualize yourself confidently doing your personal best while testing.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • If negative thoughts interfere, challenge those thoughts. How accurate are they really? Chances are you do many things well and taking that test can become another successful experience with study and preparation.

 Be prepared.

  • Attend class regularly. This seems like a no-brainer, but active class participation is the best start toward success on the test.
  • Review class materials in a relaxed setting. Some people need quiet and solitude to study. Others need to study with classmates. Follow the approach that works best for you.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to study. Cramming at the last minute can add to stress.
  • Ask questions. Let your instructor know about your challenges with the course material. Find out how long the test will take so you can plan accordingly.
  • Follow healthy habits with adequate sleep, a nutritious diet, exercise and avoid alcohol and excess caffeine.
  • Keep your sense of humor. There’s nothing like laughter to dispel tension.

The day of the test…

  • Stretch or go for a walk to diffuse tension before the exam. Arrive on time.
  • Relax. Take a deep breath. Imagine yourself focused and doing well.
  • On a piece of scratch paper jot down formulas or details you memorized so you can focus on each question.
  • Read each question very carefully. Make sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Answer each question. If you must guess, eliminate the responses you know are not correct.

Seek help with persistent test anxiety. Visit with your school’s counseling office or testing center. They often will have resources and strategies to help you turn testing jitters into success on your exams.

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April Peterson was the Assessment and Testing Coordinator for Front Range Community College, Westminster Campus.

4 Responses to “Testing Jitters: Move from Anxiety to Confidence”

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February 01, 2012 at 3:32 pm, Ian said:

My anxiety used to show through swollen glands in my neck. I was able to suppress all other all other aspects narurally, don’t ask me how i did it! But the best method found during college and beyond was practice papers. I would set aside time to tackle first one question in near exam conditions and then build up to a whole paper. Practicing timing was key. The first time that I used it before an OU exam I finished the 2.5 hour paper as the clock touched the hour and the invigilator told us to put pens down. A brilliant feeling and I got a distinction.
Ian Bracegirdle

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February 25, 2012 at 10:27 am, April Peterson said:

Thanks for sharing that strategy with other readers. Ian.

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February 25, 2012 at 10:11 am, Rich said:

Test Anxiety has got to be one of the most prevalent but most misunderstood of the anxieties. My Wife has suffered from this during college and it greatly affected her scores.

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February 25, 2012 at 10:30 am, April Peterson said:

Thank you for sharing that, Rich. It helps when people who they are not alone in the problem. I encourage everyone who suffers from test axniety to talk about it with a college or professional counselor.