Since today is the first day of Fall Semester Exams at Kingsford High School, the KHS counselors thought the topic of test anxiety might be a welcome focus for this next installment of the KHS Counselor's Corner.
There is nothing like a hefty dose of test anxiety to potentially derail weeks or months of hard work in the classroom. While it is completely normal to experience nervousness about a test - particularly a big test like a final exam, when that nervousness morphs into something that feels nearly debilitating, it can be hard for a student to manage. Fortunately, most test anxiety is manageable. The first step towards managing the anxiety is to determine whether or not it actually is anxiety. The next step is to develop a plan to manage the symptoms of the anxiety.
What does Test Anxiety Look Like?
Test anxiety can have physical symptoms, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, and emotional symptoms. Each of these symptoms will vary in intensity from student to student, but recognizing the symptoms is key to both helping to prevent and manage them.
“Physical symptoms of test anxiety include sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, fainting, and nausea. Milder cases of test anxiety can cause a sense of "butterflies" in the stomach, while more severe cases can actually cause students to become physically ill.
Cognitive and behavioral symptoms can include fidgeting or outright avoidance of testing situations. In some cases, test anxiety can become so severe that students will drop out of school in order to avoid the source of their fear. Substance abuse can also occur since many students attempt to self-treat their anxiety by taking downers such as prescription medications and alcohol. Many people with test anxiety report blanking out on answers to the test, even though they thoroughly studied the information and were sure that they knew the answers to the questions. Negative self-talk, trouble concentrating on the test and racing thoughts are also common cognitive symptoms of test anxiety.
Emotional symptoms of test anxiety can include depression, low self-esteem, anger, and a feeling of hopelessness. Students often feel helpless to change their situation or belittle and berate themselves for their symptoms and poor test performance.”
How to Manage Test Anxiety
Fortunately, test anxiety is very successfully managed with several effective tools and strategies. The most important strategy is simply to know that it IS manageable. This allows students to know that succumbing to the test anxiety is not necessary - there are options that WORK!
(The following information was sourced from: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/test-anxiety and https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-test-anxiety-2795368)
1. Be prepared.Yes, this seems obvious, but it bears repeating. If you feel confident that you’ve prepped thoroughly, you’ll feel more confident walking into the test. Need help reviewing tough concepts or question types?
2. Get a good night’s sleep.
Cramming is never the answer, and pulling an all-nighter can exacerbate your nerves. Having adequate rest (9–10 hours per night) is likely to be more beneficial than rereading a text until dawn (But if you ARE up late studying and have a question, our on-demand tutors are there for you.)
3. Fuel up.Eat a nutritious breakfast before the test and pack smart snacks for ongoing energy. Look for foods that offer a steady stream of nutrients, rather than a sugar high followed by a crash.
4. Get to class—or the testing site—early.Feeling rushed will only amp up the anxiety. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before and set the alarm, so you can get out the door on time.
5. Have a positive mental attitude.Bring a picture of your happy place or come up with a morale-boosting mantra like “I can do this” or “I worked hard and deserve this.” Peek at your picture or recite your mantra, right before the test begins.
6. Read carefully.Read the directions thoroughly and read all answers before making a choice or starting the essay. There is nothing worse than putting time into a question and realizing you are not solving for x, or the essay is off target. Slowing down can help you stay focused.
7. Just start. The blank page can maximize your anxiety. After you’ve read the directions, dive right in by making an outline for an essay answer. Or, find some questions you can ace to build up your confidence and momentum. You can always go back and change things later if needed, but a few quick answers can get the ball rolling.
8. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing.Everyone else is scribbling away? Ack! What do they know that you don’t? It doesn’t matter. Pay attention to your own test and pace, and forget about the other students in the room.
9. Watch the clock.Realizing that time is almost up and there are lots of test questions left can make it hard to do anything useful in those final minutes. Stay on pace by scoping out the whole test before getting started. Mentally allocate how much time you’ll spend on each section. If there’s time to recheck, even better.
10. Focus on calm breathing and positive thoughts.
Deep breathing can slow down a beating heart or a racing mind, so practice these techniques at home. The very act of concentrating on breathing and thinking can biometrically alter those anxious feelings.
11. Avoid the perfectionist trap.
Don't expect to be perfect. We all make mistakes and that's okay. Knowing you've done your best and worked hard is really all that matters, not perfection.
12. Use the KHS Counseling Center.
Our goal as school counselors is to provide students with the tools, resources, and support to reach their fullest potential - academically, socially, and emotionally. Come see us! We can help!