Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Test Anxiety - What You Need To Know

Test anxiety is that bubbly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a test is looming. Symptoms may include sweaty palms, trouble sleeping, increased caffeine intake, and/or irritability. These symptoms can range from the very mild to severe.

Although a certain amount of anxiety before taking an exam is normal and expected, if your anxiety is causing you to forget learned information or if it becomes debilitating, you may need to seek professional advice.

Mild to normal levels of test anxiety can be managed simply by making sure to be adequately prepared for the exam. This means regular study sessions to review the material, completing homework on time, keeping up with assigned reading, and attending class if it is an in-person class. 

Waiting until the last minute to study and/or spending all night cramming for a test is not only bad for managing anxiety, it also will result in little to no information retention. Typically, if a student is confident regarding content knowledge, test anxiety is kept at a minimum.

On the day of the test, in the moments just before the test is supposed to begin, anxiety is typically at its height. Fortunately, using that energy to create positive results rather than negative ones is relatively easy with a little practice. 

First, practice positive self-talk. Running a short phrase through your mind like the screen saver on your computer such as, “I have mastered the knowledge. I am prepared. I will successfully pass this exam,” will put success at the forefront.

Taking a minute or two to practice relaxation breathing is another simple tool to keep the mind calm and focused on the task that needs to be completed. Inhale slowly—count to 10--through your nose, hold the breath for a two-count, and then exhale just as slowly—count to 10 again. 

This can be repeated as many times as needed and can be used in a variety of situations. Finally, taking time to form a mental picture of success in your mind can be a simple, yet powerful weapon against anxiety.

Minor anxiety can be tackled using one or more of these strategies, in many cases. 

A Rio Salado Counselor is available to help you refine these strategies. Call 480.517.8785 for an appointment. If your anxiety is more serious, a counselor can help locate a behavioral health professional that meets your needs.

Contributed by Rio Salado Counselor Amberly Lebeck-Brown on behalf of Rio Salado's Counseling Services.