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Test Anxiety Overcoming Challenges
Agenda • Quiz • Defining Test Anxiety • Causes • Tips for Success • Preparation • Organization • Practice • Questions?
Quiz • Does your test performance suffer because you experience such severe anxiety before an exam? • Do you overanalyze questions? • Do you experience physical symptoms before an exam? • Does your mind “go blank” before an exam? If you answered YES to any of these questions, you may experience test anxiety.
You are not alone! • It is estimated that as many as 20% of college students experience anxiety from exams. • Sometimes the anxiety is so severe, it causes students to receive lower grades. • Anxiety may interfere with mental processes and keep students from their best performance. Source: Wayne State University Academic Success Center
What is test anxiety? • Test anxiety can strike in both mind and body. • Mind: • Racing thoughts • Mental blocks • Difficulty concentrating • Knowing the answers after the exam, but not during • Negative thoughts about: • Past performance • Consequences of failure • Classmate’s performance
What is test anxiety? • Body: • Nausea • Faintness • Sweating • Headaches • Increased or heavy breathing • Fast heartbeat • Tense muscles • Change in regular routines (example: sleep and eating)
Causes... • Cause: You are unfamiliar with the topics and issues from your readings and lectures. • Cure: Familiarize yourself with the material. • It seems like an obvious answer, but many students avoid preparing for exams to deal with their anxiety. • Be sure you have all of the required material to study for the exam. If you are missing any handouts or material, contact your professor. • Learn basic facts about your exam. • How many questions? • Essay? • Sections covered?
Causes... • Cause: You are unclear on lecture material and/or readings. • Cure: Make an organized study schedule and stick to it as you would an appointment. • Create a study plan early that outlines what you are going to cover and where you will find resources to cover the material (i.e. lecture notes, text). • Become familiar with terms and concepts. • Flash cards play an important role in this. • Form study groups with your peers. • Do not shy away from Skype or other online formats to communicate with your peers.
Causes... • Cause: You have persistent negative thoughts. • Cure: One way to curb persistent thoughts is to write those thoughts down immediately. Some students find journal writing therapeutic and calming. Counter those negative thoughts with positive thoughts. • Save those thoughts and pull them out when you are feeling nervous. Remind yourself of the positive. • Perfectionism is a common negative thought. Be sure the goals you have set for yourself are realistic.
Causes... • Cause: Your body shows signs of anxiety. • Cure: Take care of your mind and your body will benefit. • Eat well and exercise. Do not try and disturb your regular eating schedule. Avoid excess caffeine and sugar. • Resist the urge to pull an “all nighter”. It is important for your memory and your well-being that you receive plenty of sleep. • Be sure to take active breaks and interact with others.
Causes... • Cause: Your environment creates anxiety. • Cure: Tune out distraction. • Avoid arriving too early or too late for an exam. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to get comfortable. • After you arrive, choose a seat away from doors, aisles and other high-traffic areas. • Sit alone and do not chat with others. Nervousness can be contagious.
Tips for success... Academic Tips • Be sure you are clear on all lectures and readings. • If you are unclear, take advantage of your professor’s office hours. • Be sure your notes are organized by topic. • Use a binder with tabs for Power Point Presentations and lecture notes. • For essay exams, practice writing out answers to broad topics from lectures and readings. • Do not cram for an exam. • You generally have exam dates listed on your syllabi. Time management is important when planning your study time. • Pace yourself. • Study in 90 minutes increments and be sure to take breaks.
Tips for success... Body • Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. • Stay on a consistent sleep schedule when possible. • A healthy diet is important – no junk food. • Proteins and healthy carbs increase energy and keep you focused. • Watch caffeine and sugar intake. • Take long, deep breaths when anxiety symptoms present themselves. • Visualize yourself taking the exam and writing your essay answers. • Practice relaxation techniques before the exam. • Take deep breaths through the nose and exhale through the mouth. • Flex and point muscles in your toes, feet, and ankles for 10 seconds each.
Have a back-up plan • Be sure to construct a back-up plan to insure that you will still obtain your desired goal no matter what the consequence of this exam. • Will I still become a successful social worker if I fail this exam? • Of course you will. It is important to look at the “worse scenario”. • Open up communication with your professors and academic advisors. • They are all here to work for you, not against you.
Thank you! For further assistance with test anxiety and managing your time more efficiently, please schedule an appointment with your writing tutor!