I don’t know why I haven’t thought to tackle this topic before now! Test anxiety is pretty common. But could it be a good thing?
You should expect to be anxious before a test. Some people are confident test takers, and even need the pressure of a test in order to perform at their best. I have students who are too relaxed taking practice tests, and do much better in a real test situation! If this is you, then you probably don’t need this article.
On the other end of the scale, anxiety can completely derail all your hard work on test day. This is when it becomes a problem. For you, the anxiety has taken over, and become irrational. You need to take back control! This will take a lot of practice, but it is within your power.
First, make a study plan that will prepare you for the test. Check it over with a teacher, parent or tutor so that you’re confident it covers everything. Then follow it. Once you’ve followed it, your task is to convince yourself that any anxiety you feel is irrational, so learn to do things to calm yourself down – say ‘I’ve prepared, and I am ready’. Take deep breaths, listen to music, or do something else to calm yourself down, and only listen to your ‘rational head’. Ignore anything that tells you you are not prepared – you know that you are! Practice this way of thinking on tests you take in school – even small quizzes, so that you know your strategy works. Then you can apply it to bigger tests, such as end of year exams, and even the SAT or ACT. I didn’t have this problem in school, but I used all these strategies to pass my driving test!
If you can, talk to a teacher about your test anxiety problem. They may be able to help you address it, by providing accommodations (like extra time) to help you tackle your test anxiety. Here’s a tip though – don’t go to them and say ‘I need extra time on tests’! Instead, say ‘I get really anxious about tests, and I’m really trying to fix this problem so that I can get through next year/university – can you help me?’, then later in the conversation say ‘I think that if I can take the next 3 class tests with extra time, that will allow me to use the strategies I’m practicing during the tests. Then I can go back to doing them in the normal time. I’m willing to stay into lunch or after school if that helps’.
The helpful thing about the SAT or ACT is that you can take them more than once – unlike exams in school! Make sure that your study plan includes room for multiple test attempts so that you can also tell yourself on test day that this specific test doesn’t matter all that much. You get to decide whether it matters after the test when you get your score.
Stay calm and good luck!