How to Deal with Test Anxiety: Some Strategies and Suggestions

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How to Deal with Test Anxiety

Try these strategies to help you relieve your stress about the ACT.

  • Adopt a relaxed mindset.
    • In the days and weeks leading up to the test, challenge negative thoughts. You might be envisioning the worst-case scenario, but ask yourself how likely it really is.
    • Reframe the consequences and purpose of the test. You have the opportunity to show colleges how ready you are, but this isn՚t the only information they՚ll have to make their decision.
    • Remind yourself of backup plans. Will you have opportunities to retake the test?
    • Acknowledge limitations on what you can control. If you՚ve done all you can to prepare, feel confident that all you can do is your best on test day!
  • Make a study plan. Prepare yourself for test day by creating a study plan that works with your learning style and schedule. Make sure to account for breaks!
  • Get plenty of sleep. As much as possible, make sure you are well rested not only the night before the test, but in the time leading up to it as well. Practice good sleep hygiene — attempt to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
  • Use breathing exercises. Short, shallow breaths can make you feel more anxious when you are already stressed. Take a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on deep, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice how you feel after doing this. Consider integrating calming exercises into your study routine as well as on test day.
  • Know how to get to the test center. Identify both the location of your testing center and how you will get there. Will there be traffic on the day and time you need to be there? Plan on arriving early just in case.

Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety

  • Learn how to study efficiently. Your school may offer study-skills classes or other resources that can help you learn study techniques and test-taking strategies. you՚ll feel more relaxed if you systematically study and practice the material that will be on a test.
  • Study early and in similar places. it՚s much better to study a little bit over time than cramming your studying all at once. Also, spending your time studying in the same or similar places that you take your test can help you recall the information you need at test time.
  • Establish a consistent pretest routine. Learn what works for you, and follow the same steps each time you get ready to take a test. This will ease your stress level and help ensure that you՚re well-prepared.
  • Talk to your teacher. Make sure you understand what՚s going to be on each test and know how to prepare. In addition, let your teacher know that you feel anxious when you take tests. He or she may have suggestions to help you succeed.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. To help you stay calm and confident right before and during the test, perform relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome.
  • don՚t forget to eat and drink. Your brain needs fuel to function. Eat the day of the test and drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda pop, which can cause your blood sugar to peak and then drop, or caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or coffee, which can increase anxiety.
  • Get some exercise. Regular aerobic exercise, and exercising on exam day, can release tension.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is directly related to academic performance. Preteens and teenagers especially need to get regular, solid sleep. But adults need a good night՚s sleep, too, for optimal work performance.
  • don՚t ignore a learning disability. Test anxiety may improve by addressing an underlying condition that interferes with the ability to learn, focus, or concentrate — for example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. In many cases, a student diagnosed with a learning disability is entitled to assistance with test taking, such as extra time to complete a test, testing in a less distracting room or having questions read aloud.
  • See a professional counselor, if necessary. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) with a psychologist or other mental health professional can help you work through feelings, thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen anxiety. Ask if your school has counseling services or ask if your employer offers counseling through an employee assistance program.