Updated: Aug 7, 2022
By: Celeste Calabrisi
Testing anxiety is becoming more and more prevalent in students all across the country. While we know what it is and all the different causes of it, managing it is seemingly impossible for most students. Testing anxiety is described as an overwhelming feeling of tension and worry when taking an exam and can build to having physical sensations of shaking, rapid heartbeat, and headaches. Often students experiencing these symptoms feel as though they can not focus and therefore score poorly on the exam. This cyclical pattern of having the anxiety to do well on a test and then scoring poorly on the test from the anxiety is more common than you think. A study shown on Frontiers in Psychiatry shows that anywhere between 20%-40% of students report having testing anxiety. With so many students reporting testing anxiety each and every year, we hope that there will come solutions to aid students in their abilities to accurately reflect their skills. Until then, there are 5 ways to curb some feelings of testing anxiety that we recommend here at Personalized Prep. These are not replacements for any actual medical or mental illnesses you may have regarding learning, but these are ways to lessen the stress and work with your body to score well on any exam.
1. Get lots of sleep the night before your exam.
No matter what exam you are about to take, sleep is the most important key to success. Many students think that sleep is not optimal the night before a test and that their time would be better spent on some last-minute studying. Cramming is often a strategy done by students, and, sometimes, it even yields positive results. However, cramming never works if you lack sleep. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep is necessary to achieve your desired score. Your brain will not only function better when it has slept a healthy amount of hours, but it will also have improved recall when answering memory-based questions.
2. Eat fish for dinner the night before your exam.
Fish is filled with Omega-3s that improve overall brain function. Omega-3s is a fatty acid mineral that increases the oxygen to the brain. In other words, having fish the night before your exam and while you are studying will give you better retention of learned information and better recollection of old information. Look for fish with high Omega-3s, and enjoy a lovely dinner.
3. Really know the information.
Unfortunately, having testing anxiety often leads to a poor score on the exam. However, one way to ensure that you will know the correct answer on the test is to know this information as much as possible. This may mean studying more than you think you need to or studying past the point of memorizing to know “the why” behind each question. One thing for sure is that if you know the contents of the exam very confidently, then the anxiety cannot get to you as aggressively.
4. Get your blood flowing.
Many of our students have reported feeling way better about the exam when they come to take it after a workout or yoga. Having just exercised often increases blood flow, oxygen circulation, and endorphins, leading to better focus and decreased anxiety. It is a great way to release stress. So if you have an exam early in the morning, go for a jog or do some stretching: anything to get your body moving.
5. Have your favorite breakfast.
Much of testing anxiety is a mental block. Many students have something in their brain that triggers the anxiety whether that be fear of failure or pressure of success. Whatever the cause may be, a solution is always to put yourself in the opposite mental state first. Often, that means doing things that make you happy. For an early morning test, starting your day with your favorite breakfast, favorite drinks, or favorite songs can put you in a successful mindset. For an afternoon exam, pack your favorite lunchtime meal to get your headspace on your side. Starting with this step is a sure way to make sure your brain is in a clear and joyful state before your test begins.
These five tips are just a few ways to aid you in getting your desired results when struggling with testing anxiety. Many of our Personalized Prep student family have tried these tips and got their dream scores, and we hope they can help you too!
If testing anxiety is debilitating or severe, consult with your primary care doctor for further advice.