Although it’s normal to feel some anxiety when you’re preparing for, or taking, a test - too much can hamper you from doing well. Below are some tips to help you to cope with this:
1. Learn and apply proven studying techniques so you feel you really know the test material. This should help to improve your confidence and reduce excessive anxiety.
2. Work on staying positive while you’re studying. Think about doing really well, not always struggling, or even failing.
3. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before a test.
4. Don’t forget to eat right before a test either. You need protein to have enough energy to concentrate fully for the length of the test. Avoid junk food as that tends to lead to a high and then a low.
5. Try to calm and relax yourself as you enter the test room. Take a few slow, deep breaths. In your head repeat positive self-statements like “I am well prepared. I’m going to do a good job on this test.”
6. Don’t start to panic if the questions seem too hard. Just skip over the ones you can’t do, and keep reading until you find something you CAN do.
7. Ignore the fact that other students seem to be finishing before you. Take all the time you need and focus on doing your best.
8. Once the test is over, try and forget about it. There’s nothing you can do until your mark is returned to you … and maybe you’ve aced it, or done really well!
Below are some tips to help you develop the attitudes and habits which lead to success:
1. Take responsibility for yourself, and your failure or success.
2. Understand that you’ll need to priorities the way you use your time and your energy. Make your own decisions, and don’t let your friends dictate what’s important, and how much you should work.
3. Figure out when your most productive work times are, and the types of environments where you work best.
4. Try to understand the material well – don’t just memorize what the textbook says. If possible, try to explain it to a friend.
5. Try something else if revision doesn’t help. Don’t just keep reading the same things again.
6. Then, if you still don’t understand ask for help. It’s not going to magically fall into place.
7. Study with a friend, and share ideas, and test each other on what you’re meant to know.
8. Keep working and revising throughout the term so the material stays fresh and is easy to retrieve.
1. Make sure you read and understand the Instructions: This is absolutely crucial. A lot of students are keen to rush ahead and so they quickly skim over the exam instructions. Then, later, they discover that they did it wrong! For example, do you have to do every question on the paper, or do you only have to select a certain number? Is there a penalty for guessing – so is it better not to guess? (For example, because you lose an extra point for each answer you get wrong).
2. Read through the exam and divide up your time accordingly: For example, make a note of the number of questions there are, and notice what the different questions are worth. This isn’t wasted time as reading through the questions will actually start to activate your memory. Then decide which questions will be easy, and which will take more time, and mentally allocate your time accordingly. Also, allow some time at the end to review what you have written, and do some corrections if you think you’ve made an error.
3. Work through each question systematically: Slowly read through the questions, and underline key words. Make sure you check to see if there’s more than one part. Make sure you’ve fully understood what you’re being asked to do then plan what you will do before you start to write things down.
4. Attempt every question: It’s better to do something than nothing at all. You might get a few marks for thinking along the right lines. If you’re running out of time, then resort to bullets points. You’ll cover more by doing that than writing complete sentences.
5. What if your mind goes blank? Take a few, slow deep breaths and try your best not to panic. It’s important not to let your anxiety take over. Take control of your thinking by reassuring yourself that will pass in a moment – and is natural in exams. Repeat true, positive thoughts like “you’ve worked hard and are ready” and listen for your breathing – as it starts to slow.
6. Review what you’ve written and make corrections if they’re needed: Leave some time to go over your answers at the end – but don’t change what you’ve written unless you’re sure it’s wrong. Also, look out for blank spaces, for question you have missed, and turn over the last page – in case there’s something at the end!
1. Rather than listening to the voice in your head that is screaming “I hate this; I don’t want to do this” think about why it is a GOOD thing to do.
2. Instead of trying to pretend that you don’t feel this way, accept that you are feeling very blah and negative.
3. Don’t think about results and how well you think you’ll do, as this could raise your feelings of anxiety and fear, just think about “right now” and the first thing you can do.
4. Accept that life is tough, and is full of things that suck – but recognise that doing hard stuff is better in the end. You’ll likely have more choices and freedom, if you do.
5. Just do a little bit for now – then give yourself a proper break – then go back and do some more – and soon you’ll find you’re in the flow.
6. Don’t allow your mind to wander and think of other things. Stay focused for that short time – and then stop, and have fun.
Students who manage best in exams:
- Maintain positive relationships with family and friends
- Continue to allow some time for exercise and leisure
- Get plenty of sleep
- Eat sensibly
- Have planned time for study
- Are organised
- Learn and practice simple techniques for relaxation (see the school counsellor for ideas)
Warning signs that stress may be exceeding a helpful level include:
- Poor concentration
- Poor short term memory
- Recurring worrying thoughts
- Lack of tolerance for others (you may not detect that in yourself)
- Anxious about little things
- Prone to bursts of anger and tears
- Indications of feeling ‘down’, alone or misunderstood
- Disturbed sleep
- Indigestion, poor appetite.
No one sign necessarily is cause for worry and these signs need to be considered in the context of your life. However, it is better to seek help than to struggle with worries by yourself. Signs of depression or anxiety in particular should not be ignored.
1. Create a daily ‘to do’ list.
2. List goals and set priorities.
3. Do ‘A’s’ first (Most important things).
4. Do them now.
5. Ask yourself “What is the best use of my time right now?”
6. Be realistic: New habits take time to develop.
7. Reward yourself for small steps of progress towards your goals each week.
Make studying a part of your everyday school routine and don’t be limited to ‘cramming’ for exams and tests.
1. Establish a routine: Set aside a particular time each day for study and revision and stick to it.
2. Create a study environment
This should be away from interruptions and household noise, such as the television. Ensure there is adequate lighting and ventilation, a comfortable chair and appropriate desk.
3. Set a timetable: With a timetable you can plan to cover all your subjects in an organised way, allotting the appropriate time for each without becoming overwhelmed.
4. Look after yourself: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and eat healthy foods. Keep sugary foods to a minimum. Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Regular physical exercise makes you feel great, boosts your energy and helps you relax. So try to keep up regular sporting activities or at least fit in some regular exercise as often as you can.
5. Reward yourself for studying: Watch your favourite television program, spend time with your friends, walk to the park and play sport throughout the week.
6. Have variety in your study program: Study different subjects each day and do different types of work and revision in each study session.
7. Avoid interrupting your concentration: Have all the appropriate materials with you before you start a session of study to minimise distractions.
8. Test yourself on what you have studied: Ask your parents or family members to quiz you on what you have learnt, use draft questions from books, past assessments or major exam papers.
9. Don’t panic at exam time: If you have followed a study routine and have been revising your class work, there should be no need to worry. Try to keep yourself calm, positive and confident.
10. Ask your teachers for guidance: Especially if you’re having trouble - whether it’s grasping a new concept or understanding something you learnt earlier in the year. They will be happy to help.
1. Remind yourself that worrying doesn’t stop things happening. Things will happen – or not happen –anyway.
2. Recognise that “What ifs” don’t usually help with problem solving. It’s better to use logic, and brain storm for solutions. Take control of your emotions by using rational thinking.
3. Motivate yourself by something other than worrying. Take a break and do something fun, and then go back to your work again. That positive approach will reap more benefits.
4. Face your fears – and do the things that you worry about. The thought is often much worse than the actual thing you fear.
5. Ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Then, “What are the chances that it will happen? Then “Will you survive it, if it happens, in the end?” Usually, that helps to move us from an extreme and irrational way of thinking to a more realistic, and reasonable way if thinking.
6. Teach yourself a range of relaxation strategies – and then concentrate on them instead of on your different fears. Or, adopt a mindful approach – and keep your focus on “right now”.
1. Get into the habit of being an early riser. We can all benefit from having a little bit of extra time in the morning. It reduces stress, helps to prevent you from forgetting things, and stops that crazy morning rush.
2. Deliberately decide to tune out distractions. Turn off the TV, social media, your phone, and hide away when you need to get work done.
3. Prepare for the next day the night before. Check off your mental to-do list and prepare for the next day before you go to bed. If possible, choose your clothes, find your books, pack your bag, and so on.
4. Prioritise being organized. For example, it often helps to use an agenda to stay on track with assignments and homework.
5. Go to bed at a reasonable time. A good night’s sleep is one of the best tips for learning, remembering and doing well at school.
6. Make reading one of your hobbies. Research indicates that reading is one of the best ways for developing language skills and building a strong vocabulary.
7. Eat well. A protein breakfast and balanced meals help sustain your energy throughout the day, and is essential for building a healthy brain.
8. Get fresh air and exercise. This helps with mental alertness, concentration, an efficient memory and a positive mood.
- Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something—that is, encode it into your brain—if you don’t pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a piece of information into your memory. If you’re easily distracted, pick a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
- Involve as many senses as possible. Try to relate information to colors, textures, smells, and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain. Even if you’re a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better.
- Relate information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether it’s new material that builds on previous knowledge, or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone.
- For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated details. Practice explaining the ideas to someone else in your own words.
- Rehearse information you’ve already learned. Review what you’ve learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter. This “spaced rehearsal” is more effective than cramming, especially for retaining what you’ve learned.
1. Make the most of those little slots of time – a free fifteen minutes here and there. You can accomplish a lot in those extra lost minutes.
2. Make your work place comfortable and inviting. For example, have an inspiring bookshelf, light a scented candle, put up a few crazy, fun photographs.
3. Make every effort to enjoy the journey – and remind yourself of the arrival fallacy (arriving at your goal is usually a letdown, and doesn’t bring the joy we thought it would bring.)
4. Don’t be afraid of criticism as it can help you to learn and grow. Dreading it too much creates anxiety which them prevents you from producing your best.
5. Recognise that we rarely feel happy when we’re working as we’re bound to struggle with incompetence, failure, frustration and feeling that we don’t know what to do. However, they are only a part of the total picture, and completing a project leads to pride and confidence.