Test anxiety is the worst. You study hard for your exam or midterm, you walk into the exam class, and when you look at the test subjects, your mind draws a blank. You start sweating, and you feel a pit in your stomach. You worry about your test results even before you start answering the test.
If these signs sound familiar, you might suffer from test anxiety. This means that your teachers and your peers do not see your true value because your test scores never reflect your true abilities. Fortunately, you can learn to manage your test anxiety. Read on to find out more.
Test anxiety is the feeling of intense fear or panic before and/or while taking a test, exam, or assessment. While it’s totally normal to feel a bit anxious or nervous before a test, a lot of people suffer from debilitating test anxiety. That’s why we can identify two types of anxiety related to taking tests.
People with low or high anxiety respond differently to tests. However, research shows that managing your anxiety can help with your exam performance. But the trick is to recognize when your anxiety levels are too high to be acceptable.
Everyone had to pass some sort of test, so we’re all aware it’s normal to feel nervous before an exam. We learn that in kindergarten when we have to recite a small poem before the class or in primary school before taking our first tests.
But since you know most people feel nervous before exams, you do not consider the possibility of feeling more nervous than your peers until it’s too late, usually during the last year or high school or even college. Until then, you think everyone feels the same way you do.
The truth is that test anxiety affects each of us differently. Sure, most of us feel nervous, but not all of us get sweaty palms, speeding hearts, and impending feelings of doom before taking an exam.
Our physical response to test taking is based on our ancient “fight or flight” response. Those who experience high anxiety before taking a test are victims of their subconscious minds. Anxiety is your body’s reaction to threats. And while having anxiety is uncomfortable and unpleasant, the feeling is not always harmful.
Anxiety can be useful, especially in certain situations. When you are in danger, anxiety can save your life. For example, when a car doesn’t stop when you’re on the crosswalk, anxiety makes you jump out of the car’s way without having to waste precious seconds thinking about it.
And that’s not all. Anxiety also increases your attention and response time when you’re in danger. Anxiety helps you face the unknown. This ancient feeling produced in the primitive part of our brains prepares you for action.
The increased heart rate you experience helps your blood enter the large muscles in your hands and legs, preparing you to flee or fight off the danger. Since more blood is relocated to your muscles, your face might become pale.
The rapid breathing is your body’s response to the heart rate. The blood in your muscles has to be well oxygenated, so your lungs speed up to meet the heart’s demands. You start sweating because your body is preparing to run or fight, so it wants to make sure you’ll be able to cool down if needed.
The fight or flight response helped our ancestors protect themselves from predators, rival tribes, and unexpected situations. Thanks to their efficient fight or flight response, our ancestors no thrived in their environment, and ended up inventing civilized society.
But, while we could argue that the fight or flight response helped humans overcome adversity and develop civilization, the response is not very useful nowadays. Humans do not face predators any longer.
Thankfully, most of us will never experience war up close, so we’re long past protecting ourselves from rival clansmen. We still face unexpected situations, but for most of us, this means moving up a deadline or discovering that the escalator is not working.
Now, we can blame the ancient part of our brains for creating the hormones that lead to the fight or flight response without having to, but the truth is, we’re the ones to blame.
We live in safe societies, so we no longer fear our ancient enemies. But we’re still frightened. And what scares us now? Poor performance. We are afraid of looking bad in front of our friends and families, and we simply fear failure.
After millions of years of evolution, tests have become some of the greatest foes of humanity. We dread failing tests, and we stay up at night imagining disastrous scenarios where we ruin our lives by failing a test, no matter insignificant the test is in the grand scheme of things.
What we fail to realize is that we have a protector. There’s a part of our brain that wants to protect us from everything and everyone. And every time we think about failing a test, that part of us takes a mental note.
We spend a lot of time studying, but when we have to enter the exam, our amygdala starts acting up. Finally, our ancient brain gets to meet its new foe. So you start sweating. Your mouth is perched. Your face is pace, your hands tremble, you can’t read well because your pupils dilate, and your heart feels like it’s going to explode out of your chest.
In its infinite intelligence, your brain cannot understand that its new foe is a piece of paper you can’t destroy or run from. So, instead of relaxing your mind to provide the right answers, your body prepares you for battle. You’re anxious, and it seems like that’s your normal reaction for tests.
But the best thing is, you can overcome your test anxiety.
If you believe you suffer from high test anxiety, you can learn to manage it so it won’t interfere with your exam performance any longer.
Now, everyone is different, so a relaxation technique that works on your friends might not work on you. However, that’s not a reason to despair. There are multiple ways to relax your mind before an exam, so you will surely find one that works for you.
According to the ADAA, the top three causes of test anxiety are fear of failure, bad past experiences taking tests, and lack of prep time. The lack of prep time is probably the easiest to address because you can make changes in the way you study right away.
The first thing you should do to optimize the prep time is creating a study schedule. If you are fear there’s not enough time to learn the mountain of material you have to prepare for the exam, a study schedule will help you break down the information in digestible chunks.
The most important thing you have to remember when creating a study schedule is to be honest with yourself. Do not allocate six hours to your studies if you only have three hours to spare.
Find a way to incorporate studying into your normal routine, not the other way around. If you try to change your entire routine just to study two or three hours in the morning, you’re more likely respect it for a long time.
Breaking down the information and going through it in a timely manner can significantly decrease your exam fear.
You might be tempted to study for hours on end just to make sure you cover the entire material. But the truth is, you need to take breaks if you want to remember the information. Getting fresh air, listening to music, or meditating for 10 minutes every hour can do wonders for your moral and memory.
Taking the time to have some fun while learning might help you see the study material from a new perspective, encouraging you to overcome your fear of exams in the long run.
It’s very important to eat right if you want to remember more information. Eating too much sugar while you’re learning can affect your cognitive abilities. It’s also very important not to eat a lot of sugar before the exam.
Consuming a lot of sugar before the exam might seem ideal since sugar gives you a lot of energy. However, the “sugar high” is always followed by a crash, and you never know if the crash will happen during the test or after it.
Cramming is not effective. In fact, scientists believe cramming is the worst way to learn, so you don’t have to pull all-nighters if you want to study. Not getting enough sleep is stressful for the body, so it will only add to your exam anxiety.
Getting enough sleep and recapitulating important parts of the material the morning before the exam is more efficient than staying up late. Listening to a sleep hypnosis audio session is a good way to ensure you fall asleep when you want to.
Rushing to the exam and fearing you’re going to be late will only exacerbate your anxiety. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before.
Double check everything in the morning and leave early. Use your usual route and your usual means of transportation to get to the exam. You don’t want to face an unfamiliar situation that might kick start your fight or flight response before the exam
Let your mind wander in our happy place until you get to the exam. You can use some morale-boosting mantras like “I deserve to pass”, “I will nail this exam”, and “I’ll do great”. You can use these mantras even in the exam room if you feel like it. Thinking positive can help your self-confidence.
You can use music to relax your mind. Play some energetic tunes that remind you of something fun. Ride this enthusiasm wave right until the exam starts.
Once you get in the exam room and get the test subjects, take some time to read the instructions carefully. Do not rush into answering the questions yet. Just read them to make sure you understand what every question asks of you.
You’ve read the directions, so you know what you have to do. Staring at the blank page will only fuel your anxiety. Start answering the questions or writing your essay. There’s plenty of time, so you can experiment with different answers in your mind until you write the final one.
You can also try answering the easiest questions you spotted in your initial screening. Answering these questions can boost your morale and lower your anxiety significantly, encouraging you to take the difficult ones.
You shouldn’t mind what those around you are doing. So what if they wrote three pages when you only wrote two? Writing long answers won’t matter if the answers are wrong. Pay attention to your test and pace yourself.
Make sure you check the clock from time to time. You don’t want to complete half the test in a quarter of the allowed time. That will only encourage you to panic.
It’s a good idea to allocate some time for every question right from the beginning. If you get to answer all the questions faster than you assumed initially, that’s not a problem. You have enough time for rechecks and revisions.
The advice in the previous section will help you overcome your fear of exams when you’re studying and when you’re taking the exam. But if you want to deal with your test anxiety for good, you can do it with the help of exercise, mindfulness meditation, and hypnosis.
Many of us think the mind works separately from the rest of the body, but that’s not even remotely true. Our brain needs exercise to stay focused and healthy.
The worst part is, many people neglect their physical health when they study for exams. This is a trap you don’t want to fall into. Regular exercise, along with eating healthy and getting enough sleep helps you overcome test anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation is great because it teaches you to focus on the present moment. Those who are experienced in meditation can acknowledge their test anxiety and fearful thoughts without expressing their physical manifestations.
Using mindfulness meditation can help you overcome your fear of exams for good in a few months.
Hypnosis can help you overcome anxiety naturally. Hypnosis encourages you to enter a trance. When you’re in the trance, you are less aware of what’s happening around you and more aware of your inner self.
This experience helps you see your inner thoughts, memories, and feelings from a different perspective. Once you’re in the hypnotic trance, you can see the cumulative experiences that lead to your test anxiety in a new light, and you can see how you can overcome their effect.
Overall, the hypnotic trance encourages relaxation. This will help you study better, sleep better, and perform better during your test. Listening to the ‘Overcome Exam Nerves’ hypnosis audio session will encourage your subconscious to be more positive and more confident in your abilities.
The hypnosis session will help your brain reprogram its reactions to tests, and you will never have to experience test anxiety again.
Using test anxiety strategies will help you overcome your fear of exams in the long run. Even though some strategies might seem small and insignificant at a first glance, using them on a regular basis will improve your test performance