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Beating Exam Anxiety – Psych Up For Better Test-Taking.    Do you have a system for defeating exam anxiety? Do you know how to prepare mentally to be at your best for a test? Discover what exam anxiety is, what causes it and how it affects you. Read 10 mental readiness strategies that will help catapult your mind into the "ideal test-taking zone" no matter how much pressure you feel to perform. You'll learn how to conquer the performance anxiety that sabotages your exam abilities by creating a winning mind set that can't be beat.    961 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook

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How To Beat Exam Anxiety

Psych Up For Better Test-Taking

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

I meet very few people who enjoy taking exams. Even the very best students find test-taking stressful. No matter how well-prepared you are, stress still creeps into the process.

How about you? How well do you handle the pressures of test-taking? Do you know how to prepare mentally? How to relax when it counts most? How to keep your mind clear and crisp under pressure?

This article will help you develop mental readiness strategies so you can prepare with confidence for any oral or written exam situation.

The Facts About Exam Anxiety

It's reassuring and powerful to realize these essential truths about what scares you. The first step to getting this fear response under your control is to demystify it.

  1. Exam anxiety is normal. If you're human, you're going to get it.
  2. Exam anxiety hits everyone, even the most experienced test-takers, at every level.
  3. You will never completely conquer exam anxiety yet you can manage it.
  4. The more mind tools you have to beat exam anxiety, the better you will perform.
  5. Top performers turn in wonderful performances all the time – even though they are suffering from exam anxiety during the actual test.
  6. Beating exam anxiety is not about being perfect or about being fear-free. It's about adjusting and managing your anxiety and using it to fuel your performances.

What Causes Exam Anxiety?

If you are ill-prepared for your exam, you will be nervous. Very nervous. Guess what? You SHOULD be nervous. Why? You're NOT READY. But I don't think that's you, or you wouldn't be reading this.

Even folks who are well-prepared can still get quite nervous before an exam. That's normal. The results of an exam can be quite important, so that's why we feel so much stress. There's a lot riding on the outcome.

How Stress Happens

  1. Your body's chemistry kicks in to get you ready to perform.
  2. You may inaccurately misinterpret those feelings that you are "nervous".
  3. You mistakenly believe nerves to be "bad".
  4. You then worry that this is proof that you are about to fail and embarrass yourself.
  5. You then worry about worrying.
  6. The negative cycle continues.
  7. You selectively choose further nervousness proof that you are panicking and about to fail.
  8. All these symptoms combine to ignite a full-blown attack of nerves. Bingo. You have a bad case of exam anxiety.

Ten Ways To Psych Up To Test Better

People don't plan to fail...they just fail to plan. Powerful performances must provide perceptive pre-performance procedures so poor performance is precluded! Here are some pre-performance exam strategies that should help you keep away the test-taking stress demons.

Before your next exam, consider preparing your mind in these special ways:

  1. Practice your exam performance the morning of the "show". Not the whole thing, but a bits and pieces. This is your warm-up and will help you begin to focus on the performance.

  2. Have some sort of pre-event routine that will prepare you mentally, emotionally and physically. Even NOT having a traditional routine is fine (goofing off, not paying attention to the upcoming event) as long as you realize that this works for you.

  3. Custom planning is the key. You need a routine that will work specifically for you, not one that your test-taking buddies do. Experiment to find the one that meets your needs.

  4. What are your needs? You want a routine that focuses you, helps you contain anxiety, energizes you with positive energy, psyches you up mentally so you expect to do well and helps you make a gradual transition into your performance state.

  5. The performance state is a special consciousness that is different from our normal day-to-day existence. We need to enter that state well before the exam begins. Just arriving at the exam and then rushing on will not do it. A gradual leaving behind of our normal day and a slow immersion into our "testing head" is required.

  6. Your pre-exam routine is very much a ritual. You need to have a series of steps in the routine that you do each time before a test. Over time, this ritual begins to feel comfortable, normal and will work for you. It's a security blanket for your confidence.

  7. It's important to maintain the same ritual in the same order each time you prepare. It's this sameness that kicks off your psych-up energy and automatically helps you focus, relax and energize.

  8. The ritual you design should be no shorter than 10 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes or so. Any shorter and the effect is not as powerful, and any longer and you may not be able to find the time or space to execute it. The best rituals are done quickly and require no special equipment or place.

  9. Check any equipment you will be using. Make sure everything is in order. Do a final check. Make sure all physical things are under control as much as possible. This frees your mind of worry.

  10. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax your muscles. Do this for five minutes. Then think back to a time when you aced an exam and scored extremely well. That was you in the zone. Recapture the feelings of that zone experience by recalling how your mind was clear, your emotions were calm, your muscles were relaxed and your motivation to succeed was high.

This will start you on the journey to the perfect pre-performance exam routine. I wish you the best of luck in your march to test-taking peak performance.

Knowing about educational psychology and being test savvy is certainly an important part of being a good student, but top students who get consistently high grades also have a knowledge base and applied skills in stress control and peak performance. You need to know how to manage your mind, calm your emotions and relax your body so you can get into the “test zone”, that powerful, deeply focused mind-body state that gives you excellent recall, mental alertness and clarity. You need to learn these skills and become mentally tough so you can handle the extreme pressures of academia. Other mental skills training you need are visualization, confidence-building, mental readiness training and motivation skills.

To learn this set of mental toughness, zone, and stress control skills, sign up for our special Test Anxiety Stress Reduction Program. You can also take this no-cost assessment of your test-taking skills.


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Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com), an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.

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Beating exam anxiety  
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