Conquering Test Anxiety: Stress is Great

You’ve studied all week. You used my test prep advice. You met with a tutor. You know the material. You are ready. The day of the test arrives. You are nervous. You couldn’t sleep much the night before. Your heart is beating faster than usual. Your palms are sweaty. What could the professor ask you? Did you study everything? Oh no, the professor is handing out the tests. What do you do? You feel the dreaded freak out coming on. Help!

Does this describe you? It certainly described me my first quarter in college. I was taking my first class in college: chemistry. I was a natural chemistry god in high school. I don’t know why, but I was like a duck in water when it came to chemistry. I didn’t know it until I won my high school’s Lab Science Award but I was kicking butt over the rest of the school. So, naturally I majored in Chemistry. I thought I was going to dominate. But college to me was the “big league.” My grades really mattered toward medical school. This was it, make or break time. Perhaps for you there is an academic or athletic scholarship on the line. Perhaps your parents promised you a new car if you get an A.

The pressure really got to me. Without warning, I discovered I got nervous on tests. I couldn’t show what I knew. I knew the material, why was I getting C’s? Something had to be done because I coulnd’t afford to fail. What I did was research. I took after school study skills courses. I read books at the bookstore, the library (this was in the days before the internet). I discovered a whole world of study skills advice and that I was not alone. Since college, I continued to research study skills. I developed methods of my own for myself and for my students. I learned to conquer my fear and practice under duress. I learned to take tests FAST AND FURIOUS.

You know how professors separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, on tests? They make them hard and they make you go fast. If you can quickly spit out what you have memorized or think “on your feet” you will be more successful, work efficiently, and not blank out on tests. The key here is speed, while staying focused. You need to practice sample problems and quizzes fast. If you really suffer test anxiety, and I mean big time like I did, try this out.

Go to the actual classroom, or one like it, and get to know it. Look at the walls. Memorize the postings. Become familiar with the classroom set up. Rearrange the chairs. Pretend the classroom is your home. Kick your feet up. Hang out there nightly, before the building closes when no one is around. Then, pull out some homework problems or a test your tutor prepared for you, and take “speed quizzes.” Work faster than you’re allowed per problem on your tests. Take mini quizzes, 10-minutes maximum. If you don’t get a 100{1870485bc5b1e7a5aedc33fc808a1cb6336e9aafb8d054494e763b3ec6cda6b5}, here’s the fun part. Punish yourself with exercise. Run a flight of stairs. Do pushups, situps, whatever is HARD. Get your heart rate up. Repeat the quiz, same problems or new ones. Try to mimic the testing environment. Use a timer that ticks. Have a friend pace the rows of desks or announce “10-minutes left,” or whatever makes you nervous in class during tests. Do this over and over. You will get faster and you learn to focus under duress. Because you are creating the stress, you will learn that stress is just subjective, and you are in charge of your response to it.

There’s more to overcoming test anxiety than this and for that, please read my study skills ebook. It’s free, so you have nothing to lose and much to gain.

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