Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam Anxiety, Part 1
Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use Before The Test.
The big test is coming up soon.
You see many of your friends stressing out. Some are not even studying,
and tell you they can cram the night before and "It will all be
fine". Others say the test stress is really getting to them and
are showing signs of stress and anxiety. How about you? Do you know
how to properly study so the test stress is manageable? This article
gives you 26 test preparation strategies that are simple, yet powerful,
so you stay on track, stay composed, handle the stress and learn
How Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam
Do You Know These 26 Test Success Strategies?
Part One: Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use Before The Test
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California
The big test is coming up soon. You see many of
your friends stressing out. Some are not even studying, and tell
you they can cram the night before and "It will all be fine". Others
say the test stress is really getting to them and are showing signs
of stress and anxiety. Still others seem to have a system that places
it all under control.
How about you? Do you know how to properly study so the test stress
is manageable? This article gives you 26 test preparation strategies
that are simple, yet powerful, so you stay on track, stay composed,
handle the stress and learn the material. Here we go with some immediately
useable mental strategies.
- Choose Your Best Study Schedule: Even though cramming
works for some students, it is a poor strategy for most people.
Plan your time management schedule so you can create several shorter
study periods rather than a few longer periods. Your mind will
- Maintain Normalcy: Make sure to keep up with your usual
habits of good nutrition and exercise. Continue with your usual
recreational pursuits and social activities.
- Avoid Cramming: Even though some students use this method,
for many students, last-minute all-at-once studying can result
in poor retention, stress, guilt at feeling behind, and mental
tiredness from lack of sleep.
- Know When Your Mind Is Wandering: No one can make their
mind focus perfectly for hours on end. Everyone needs a break
at some point. The trick is to never allow yourself to continue
when you are unfocused. Either refocus correctly, or take a break.
That way you are maintaining quality study skills, not just going
through the motions.
- Know When Enough Is Enough: When you feel you are well
prepared for the test, stop and do something relaxing, fun or
- Have A Confidant: Instead of allowing stress to build
up, you want to speak to someone so you can talk it out. Talk
to a friend, test coach, psychologist or someone with good listening
skills and who cares.
- Be Wary of Caffeine: Use caffeine with moderation. The
day of the test you may be unusually keyed up. Using caffeine
also that day may make you jittery and light-headed.
- Take Breaks: Make sure to take planned and unplanned
breaks so you remain fresh and concentration flows.
- Use Study Aids: Flash cards, color magic markers, post-its
and other clever visual aids can help you organize and recall
material more easily.
- Reward Yourself: Promise yourself a reward yourself
after the test. No matter what, if you study hard, you deserve
a reward. Besides, you often don't discover your score for some
time, so enjoy yourself.
- Maintain Good School-Life Balance: You need to ward
off stress from life itself, or it will inject itself into your
studies, and your test taking. Having friends, a social life,
family, hobbies, fitness and health and other arenas takes pressure
off you "putting all your eggs into one basket", as they say,
so you don't feel as though school and testing is the be-all,
end-all part of life. Keep academic pressure in perspective.
- Get The Right Attitude About Tests: If you hope to be
successful and go very far in life, there will be many, many tests,
of all sorts. You might as well get your mind right and accept
that fact now, and stop fighting this reality. After all, what
is your alternative? To be afraid, to torture yourself and to
continually fail? At least accept the reality that you must become
a decent test taker. You don't have to be spectacular, just solid.
- Monitor Your Thinking For Irrational Statements: If
you say to yourself, "This test is Do or Die, and it will make
or break my whole career", or, "My whole future is riding on this
one test", you are setting yourself up for a pressurized testing
situation. These statements are false. Think reasonably and keep
things in perspective.
- Use A Color Code System On Your Notes And Textbooks:
Yellow underlines for first pass, for what to come back to later.
Green for items you still don't understand after pass number two.
After pass number three or four the final items get marked red
for any last-minute reviews. That way you don't re-read everything
marked yellow and waste time.
- Stay In Your Own World: Do your best to avoid being
around people who are agitated, negative and anxious about the
test so that does not rub off on you.
- Minimize Anticipatory Anxiety. The more you worry prior
to the test, the more you cause yourself stress and the more energy
you burn up. By the time you get into the test, all that worry
can knock you out physically and mentally. You'll feel wiped out
and be unable to focus.
- Control Only The Controllables: There are many things
out of your control in a testing situation. Only focus on those
you can control. That would be you, your emotions, your thoughts,
your muscles, your breathing and your study plan.
- Practice The Performance: Do some run-throughs of the
entire testing procedure. Include the clothes you will wear, the
type of chair, lighting, table, pen or pencil, actual test questions.
Now time it all and see how that feels. When you get to the real
test, it will feel much more normal.
- Compare Your Positive To Negative Ratio: Stop spending
time focusing on the negative consequences of test problems and
failing. Instead, focus on what you need to do to succeed.
- Gauge Your Level Of Anxiety: If you could not care less
about the test, have no anxiety, and you have not prepared well,
that is a major trouble sign that you will not perform well. You
should have some nerves to signify that you are about to "perform".
- Tune Into Your Inner Dialogue: Pay attention to your
thoughts just before a test. This is called self talk, and it
may reflect the fear and apprehension you feel about not wanting
to do poorly on the test. Change these self-defeating thoughts
into positive ones.
- Set A Goal of Excellence, Not Perfection: If you seek
absolute perfection, you will create tension within yourself.
Instead, seek excellence and do the best you can. That's all anyone
can ask of themselves.
- Keep The Test In Perspective: A test is a test. You
still have a life after it is done. Your friends and family will
still love you, and life will match on. Don't build the test up
in your mind any bigger than it really is.
- Think Big Picture: You will have hundreds of tests throughout
an academic career. No one single test will make you or break
you. Find ways to decrease pressure by thinking this way.
- Arrive Strategically: Plan ahead on your travel to the
test so there is no way you will arrive no later than ten minutes
early. You don't want a lot of dead time which may make you nervous,
being around nervous students who my distract you.
- Go Into The Test Expecting To Do Well: Never count yourself
out or expect to fail. This self-defeating attitude will just
tend to create that awful reality. Instead be upbeat and happy
that you studied hard and gave yourself every opportunity to do
well on the test.
Some of these mental approaches to managing test
anxiety are common sense, and others are not. The trick is to create
your own customized mental training program prior to each test.
Remember that your mind is a very powerful tool in combating test
stress, and the major tool you want to go to time and again. The
formula is: "Change your thoughts, and you change your emotions,
and your stress". Now I want you to read the article on handling
test anxiety during the test, and the article on how
to review and assess your test strategies after the test. Good
luck on all your exams!
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.
Copyright © 2011-
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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