How can you overcome testing taking anxiety? This article series breaks down specific steps that you can take to reduce your stress and unlock your full potential. In Part 1, specific physical techniques were discussed that make use of your body's own regulation system to relax yourself in high stress situations. Then, in Part 2, five different ways to build a long term mindset of confidence were presented. Finally, the third and final part to this series will give another five techniques to build on the previous two parts and help you build long term habits to become a better test taker. These techniques will require more time commitment and effort than you are used to. Building good habits takes a lot of initial work. But in the long run, they will make your life much, much easier. It's also critical to focus on them one by one. Only move on to the next technique once you've mastered the previous one.
1. Progressively Increase Your Target
The root of test taking anxiety is a feeling of being overwhelmed. And there's good reason for this. A four hour standardized test or AP US History DBQ essay looking at seven different documents can be intimating. Just like a weight lifter shouldn't try to break their all time personal record every single training session, you shouldn't try to tackle the full weight of your exam in the first session. Instead, break down the exam into pieces and start with a smaller goal. For example, instead of writing a full essay, first aim to perfect writing a single body paragraph, with no time restrictions. Next, try to write a good paragraph within a certain time limit. Only once this is done should you practice multiple paragraphs and eventually a full essay.
2. Spread Out Your Studying
Notice that the previous habit can't be accomplished in a single session the night before your exam - you will need to practice over a period of time. Spreading out your studying is the golden key towards becoming a straight A student with very low stress. Of course everyone knows this, but most people wont put it in action.
Study after study shows that spreading out your studying over a long period of time, rather than cramming it into one or two sessions immediately before your test leads to far more effective learning. Don't keep torturing yourself with desperate all nighters followed by caffeine fueled anxiety filled tests (after which you forget everything you learned). Take 20 minutes to make a schedule and spread out your studying. The only regret that you'll have is that you didn't do this sooner.
3. Create a Test Day Routine
One of the best ways to make yourself comfortable (and less stressed) is to create familiar routines for yourself. You are convincing your mind that this text is not something new, but a challenge that you've already overcome in the past.
For example, I have a special alarm ringtone that I only use on days that I have a test. Once I wake up, I'll listen to a specific song that motivates me, take a short walk down a specific path next to my house, have my favorite brand of cereal, eat a granny smith apple, wear a special pair of shoes, and finally recite a short positive affirmation before the exam. This routine, which was built through dozens of different exams in different classes, gives me an immediate sense of confidence and pride, which always translates to better test performance.
Make your own test day routine. Experiment with different things until you can find something perfect for you.
4. Practice In Conditions Similar to the Test
Always try to recreate the conditions of your test when practicing. If you have to write down an essay on pen and paper, don't study using a laptop. Try to sit down in a well lit room on a desk as similar as the one you'll be using in a classroom rather than lying down on your bed. Is there anyway you can get access to an empty classroom? Consider studying there.
Try to mimic the situation with as much detail as possible. If your teacher requires that students use dividers, try to buy or make a divider when studying. Many standardized tests have exact scripts that the proctors will read. You can almost always find videos of these online. Practice the test with the virtual proctor. The more similar the conditions your study in are, the more comfortable you will be on the actual day of the exam.
5. Visualize the Path
Visualization is a technique used by the most elite athletes in the world. It refers to the process of creating a mental image of the outcome that you want, multiple times. This goes far deeper than simply imaging getting an A. Visualization means that you vividly imagine every step of the process.
Just like an Olympic runner will repeatedly go through every step of the track in their head before their competition, you should visualize yourself going through each part of the test. If there is both a multiple choice and essay part, imagine filling out the bubbles, brainstorming the essay, and actually writing the essay out.
The more detail you go into, the more this technique will help. What will the test look like? What will your paper look like? Can you imagine the sound of a dozen pencils carefully scratching their answers onto the exam? Will the test room be cold, warm, or just right? And finally, visualize getting the test back with a perfect score.
The techniques presented in this three part series combine to make an extremely powerful foundation that can propel you to academic success alongside mental strength. Feel free to contact us for specific questions or further help how to implement them within your life.