As the end of the semester approaches, students often report increased levels of test anxiety related to finals. This is especially true when their course grade rests on how they do on their final exam. Being successful on a test requires you not only to learn and know the content, but to be able to demonstrate that knowledge during the test. A systematic approach to learning not only ensures success but also shields you from panic and test anxiety. To maximize your performance, and reduce anxiety, follow the following steps.
• Prepare adequately for the test. Studying over time allows you to rehearse the material eliminating the need for cramming which usually means you’ve stayed up and are tired when you arrive to take the test.
•Rehearse the material in the way you will be tested. Ask yourself questions that you expect to see on the test which means the test itself will feel familiar and less threatening.
•Monitor the thoughts you are having about your performance as we tend to act the way we imagine we will act. With encouraging thoughts it’s more likely you can remain calm, which boosts performance.
• Be physically ready by getting a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine, as it can affect your sleep and, if you drink enough, may actually create similar symptoms of panic.
•Panic is contagious, so stay away from those who are maybe poorly prepared and panicking as a result.
•Reduce potential distractions; eat enough so that you aren’t hungry, but too full. Go to the bathroom beforehand and wear clothes in layers that be taken off or put on depending on the temperature.
• Be mindful of your self-talk. Instead of saying ‘what if I don’t know the answer,’ think ‘I may not know all the answers,’ this allows you to minimize panic if an unexpected question comes up, as we perform best when we experience enough anxiety to perform well without feeling paralyzed by fear.
•Take breaks, even for 30-60 seconds to take a few deep breaths allowing you to calm and energize yourself which enables a better performance. Use good test taking skills. Answer the question you find first, then go to the next one you feel most confident about. Leave the most difficult questions until last when you can give them time. Also be aware of the value or weight of each question and plan accordingly
• Plan to reward yourself when the exam is over so that you have something to look forward to. Also review what worked well for you, and what didn’t work so well, to help prepare for future exams.