“Alright, everyone. Close your books, put your notes away. It’s time to begin.”
I fumble my pen, wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans and try to pull myself together. Breathe, Liz. Breathe! This is the big leagues – the final exam.
Uncertainty overwhelms me. What if I didn’t study the right material? What if I can’t remember what I studied? What if I flunk this?
If I fail this, I’ll lose my scholarship. If I lose my scholarship, I won’t be able to afford college. If I don’t go to college, I’ll have to find a job. If I can’t find a job, I’ll starve and die.
If I fail, I’ll die.
I really shouldn’t be here.
I place my trembling fingers on the desk, and my professor slides the exam in front of me. I scan the first question, and my heart sinks. I’m definitely going to fail.
Considering the high-pressure environment of finals week, it’s no surprise that many students struggle with test anxiety. And while a mild dose of adrenaline can boost exam scores, too much, as in the case of test anxiety, can be distracting and overwhelming.
But fear not, fellow test-taker. All is not lost. With the help of a few simple techniques, you may be able to significantly reduce your symptoms of test anxiety.
Symptoms of test anxiety:
- Fear of failing before arriving to take the exam.
- Feelings of tension as the exam is being passed out.
- Physical symptoms such as: increased heart rate, shortness of breath, perspiration, etc.
- Negative thinking such as: “I am going to fail,” “I shouldn’t even bother taking this exam,” “I’m going to die.”
- Blanking out on information that you studied.
- Recalling information upon leaving the classroom that you blanked out on during the exam.
- Frustration with your grade on the exam because you know you were well prepared.
Techniques to reduce test anxiety:
- Prepare for the exam ahead of time. “Cramming” is a big culprit of test anxiety.
- Get plenty of rest the night before the exam.
- Don’t forget to eat the day of the exam, preferably something nutritious.
- Avoid arriving too early or late to the exam.
- Avoid last minute studying; remember you already prepared.
- Avoid discussing the exam with others while you wait. The anxiety of other students can rub off, and suddenly you begin to doubt yourself.
- Don’t forget to breath! Take deep breaths to help yourself relax.
- Replace any negative thoughts with positive ones, such as: “I am relaxed,” “I am prepared,” “I am a good student.”
- Don’t get bogged down during the exam. If you can’t think of the answer immediately, move on. Return to the question later.
- Reward yourself when you are finished with the exam. If it takes the promise of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey to get you through, so be it.
So the next time you feel your heart kick into high gear during an exam, remind yourself of these tips. Breathe, think positively, and keep pressing onward.
Face those finals. Take them down. Winter break is almost here! Can you taste it?
Adapted from University of Puget Sound Learning Center, used with permission.
Written by Elizabeth Hull