Were you on the verge of total and debilitating panic before the last test you took? Would you have given anything to calm your nerves? Those ten minutes of freaking out before a test take a toll on you, whether you realize it or not. It takes longer than you might think for anxiety to ebb away entirely, and any residual anxiety can adversely affect your work.
Here are some tips to help you work through some of those eleventh hour jitters—they just might be the difference between an average or a great score.
1. Understand and accept your anxiety.
Know that it’s totally normal for you to be stressed—it’s a stressful situation, a lot is riding on it, and it’s only natural that you respond this way. Your body is made to handle stress—even if the sweating and shaking is really unpleasant—and the physiological phenomena are just chemical and biological, ergo ineluctable, reactions. “Know your enemy,” is a clever tactic, and isn’t just handy in war. Familiarize yourself with your body’s manner of dealing with anxiety, and you’ll get better at managing stress.
2. Take long deep breaths.
Most anxiety manifests itself in the form of a violently pounding heartbeat, and that awareness just feeds into itself and makes you even more anxious. If only for this, take a yoga class and learn some breathing techniques. A heightened pulse is also a good sign: the adrenalin rush will make your reflexes, both physical and mental, more acute. All that blood rushing around in your body, in addition to making you feel like everyone in the room can probably hear your heart, is also carrying oxygen to all the important bits. Your brain’s getting good and oxygenated, and that’s an advantage: help your body out by taking deep breaths, which will relax your body while invigorating your brain, inducing clarity and acuity. This is a tip worthy of Bruce Banner, so keep it in mind.
3. Slow things down consciously.
Right before you begin your test, force yourself into serenity: focussing on little tasks will help. Sharpen your pencils, arrange everything the way you need it, do some sitting stretches, crack your knuckles, and clear your mind. Think of Olympic sprinters right before they’re off. Trust us, it may sound counterintuitive to deliberately slow things down before a test—something you usually associate with breakneck speed—but just like the long slow breaths, this is a good trick to relax and ease into a difficult task.
4. Think positive.
This might be an obvious one, but once you’ve cleared your mind of all that nasty anxiety and panic, flood it with thoughts of your impending success. We’re assuming that you studied hard for this test, so there’s no reason that you shouldn’t do well when you’re well-prepared and calm. A lot of the time, even a student that knows all the material can do badly on a test simply because he’s so nervous his brain shuts down. Once you’re in the test room, the best you can do is make it as easy as possible for your knowledge to make it onto your answer sheet, and thinking about things that make you happy will help with that.
5. Have faith in yourself.
If you’ve put in the work, you have to have faith in yourself. Your confidence will come from all the hours and days that you spent preparing for the test. Consistent practice will not only help with absorption, it’ll also make execution easier: if you’re used to doing something in a comfortable setting, like your house, you’ll find it much easier to recreate it at a test venue. For more on how to manage academic jitters, click here.
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