Test anxiety is essentially a state of excessive fear or worry about situations involving formal evaluations such as tests or major papers in schools or colleges.
While feeling stressed and jittery before major tests in a normal phenomenon for some, others might find it hard to cope with the pressure. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, about 16-20% of students have high test anxiety which makes it the most prevalent scholastic impairment in schools today. In fact, the majority of students report that they are more stressed by tests and schoolwork than by anything else in their lives.
What Causes Test Anxiety?
There are several reasons that contribute to test anxiety; it primarily stems from worrying about one’s self-worth. Students suffering from test anxiety tend to think that acceptance by peers, parents, and teachers depends only on their academic achievements.
According to Dr. Robert Pressman, director of research for the New England Center of Pediatric Psychology, test anxiety has primarily three distinct components such physiological, behavioral and psychological.
Students suffering from anxiety tend to demonstrate typical physiological symptoms such as feeling light-headed, sweaty, tensed as well as experiencing knot in stomach, nausea and rapid heartbeat. Similarly, in terms of behavior, they may either have disorganized thoughts or go completely blank as well. Some common psychological traits during test anxiety range from restlessness to feeling restless and insecure.
How to Manage Test Anxiety in High School
From midterms to college entrance exams to finals, high-schoolers face a slew of tests which push their nerves and make them anxious, especially when the dates of these comes approach.
Here are a few tips on how to manage your test anxiety in high school:
Even as this sounds pretty obvious, it’s one of the best ways to avoid test anxiety. The more prepared and confident you are for the test, the less you’re likely to feel jittery. It’s that simple. Don’t start studying the day before a test. Give yourself a few days to let the material sink.
Want to determine your preparedness for the upcoming tests? Take a look at the test prep experts at The Princeton Review and discover your test readiness.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Cramming isn’t an ideal way to prepare for the test. In fact, it makes increases the anxiety about your preparedness. Many high-school students tend to pull an all-nighter, which negatively affects their nerves and their ability to think clearly during the exam. If you want to stay cool, calm and collected, the right approach is getting at least 8 hours of sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night to ideally function. However, a study found only 15% of the students reported sleeping for 8 ½ hours on school nights. Let your brain and body rest well before the test.
If you want to have an optimal state of mind, it’s important to eat healthy and stay well-hydrated before the test. Many students skip their breakfast out of sheer anxiety while others indulge in crash dieting, both of which are detrimental to your body and mind. As a matter of fact, eating healthy has been found effective in improving test scores. According to a research by the University of California, Berkeley, a healthier diet positively affects students’ test scores. Make sure your foods are rich in nutrition to keep a healthy regimen.
Listen to Relaxing Music
It’s only natural to feel a bit nervous before the test. However, if you want to avoid letting negative thoughts cripple you, listen to relaxing music before the test. Once you let your body and mind sync with the music, your heart rate will come down its’ normal range.
Get to Class or the Test Early
The feeling of being late for the test is real and it can add unneeded anxiety. To avoid feeling rushed, pack your stuff the night before the test and set your alarm clock to get up early and reach the class for your test with time to spare. If it’s an online test, make sure you browse site beforehand to get a feel of it, especially if it’s your first time.
Develop Positive Mental Attitude
Negative thoughts fuel test anxiety for high schoolers. Make it a practice to cultivate ways of staying motivated no matter what the situation is. Surround yourself with friends with a positive bent of mind. Read some inspiring quotes and listen to a motivational talk before the test to stay inspired.
It’s always a best practice to read your questions and directions carefully before providing an answer. This applies to multiple choice, long form questions and essays.
Don’t spend too much time on a question that appears tricky right off the bat. Move on to the next question to get in a early groove.
Don’t Pay Attention to What Others are Doing
Students can often worry about what others in the room are up to, therefore distracting them from thinking clearly. This happens especially when you’re not self assured and feeling nervous. Rather than looking around, focus on one question (the easiest ones) to build your confidence as you progress through the test. You can even try wearing ear plugs if this helps you block out sounds and disruptions from your classmates.
Watch the Clock
At the beginning of the test, spare a moment to scan the questions and determine in what order you prefer to answer them. Once you have allocated time for each of those levels, stick to the plan. Getting started without any plans can leave you tense when you realize you’re out of time for the remaining questions.
Practice Calm Breathing with These Mobile Apps
Deep breathing is a tried-and-true method that helps you slow down your heart rate and keeping it stable. Calming exercises such as yoga and meditation are also effective ways to stave off your nerves and reduce anxiety. There are many mobile apps that can help when you know you have stressful events coming in your life. Universal Breathing, Paced Breathing, Breathe2Relax, Relax Stress, End Anxiety, and Breathing Zone are all worth trying.
If you feel you need help and support to battle test anxiety, you should consult your teachers or school guidance counselors. Simply speaking to someone about your anxieties can be a good first step to help you cope with it.
Tips for Parents: How to Help Your Teens Deal with Test Anxiety
It’s very common for teens to undergo anxious moments before the tests. However, parents can play a huge role in helping their teens cope with test anxiety. If not treated early, it can translate into a bigger issue throughout your teens life. Here are a few things that you can do to help.
Listen to Their Concerns
It’s natural for your teen to be unsure about a test and its outcome. However, as a parent, you need to reach out to them and be empathetic about the challenges. Speak to them honestly and be realistic about the whole issue. Telling your kids that you’re there for them regardless of the outcome of the test can be a good starting point. However, sometimes, you need to understand the underlying problems that trigger tension in your teens.
Help Them Balance
More often than not, teens get nervous because they are unable to strike a balance between balancing their studies and other activities. As a parent, you need to push them to scale back on other things, letting them find more time to focus on studying. You need to help him manage their time for the upcoming tests, setting up a schedule to fully prepare for the test(s).
Teaching them the art of prioritization and time management will help them throughout their lives.
Help Them Anticipate the Test Beforehand
Many teens lose sleep over the types of questions that may be in the test, regardless of how well prepared they are. Some of them don’t really know what to expect from the test. Help your teens anticipate different types of questions that could appear. If the test is on a previous chapter in a text book then take a look at that with your teen. Look at any practice questions that may be available for that chapter. They can then prepare for them well in advance and this will help them eliminate any surprises in the test.
Success in exams isn’t just about good study habits; they are also about learning to stay calm and being able to fight off your nervousness. With the above mentioned tips, you can manage test anxiety and optimize your academic performance.