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Banishing the Jitters: How to Deal with Test Anxiety

Feeling stressed about an upcoming standardized test or certification exam is normal. Whether you're studying for the SAT, the MCAT,  or a real estate certification exam, just about everyone gets nervous when it is time to take a complex test that could impact the rest of their life. If you have a major test that you need to take in the near future, there are a few things that you can do to help banish the jitters before the big day.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

Being prepared for an exam will help you feel much more confident on the day of the exam, which in turn will help you perform better. In order to be prepared, it is important to avoid waiting to the last minute to cram information. You need to start studying well in advance of the exam date and be persistent with the information you study. Practice good time management. The more you see the information, the better chance you will have of retaining what you have learned. Also, make sure to take practice exams so you know what to expect when you sit down for the real thing. Practice makes perfect or at least makes you more confident! You can find many great practice exams online or books at your local library, or you could even have a friend create a few practice exams for you to try!

 

Don’t Forget to Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential if you want your body to function properly and your brain to be as sharp as it can be. (Which you do, of course!) When you're tired, your body is not able to process thoughts as clearly. This could make you second-guess an answer to a question or even cause you to draw big, scary blanks on certain questions. This can be a frustrating situation, especially if you knew the answer the night before when you were up until the late hours of the morning studying. If you find that your jitters are too intense to sleep, you can try to get your mind off of the upcoming test with a good book, a funny movie, or a warm cup of decaffeinated tea.

 

Take the Time to Work Out

Exercise can actually help your brain work more efficiently, which will improve your test scores. You do not have to do intense exercise to get great results. Taking a walk, going for a swim, or simply jumping rope can be great ways to get your heart pumping and the blood flowing.

 

Clear Your Mind with Meditation

The jitters that you get before a big test can often cause your body to become tense and your mood to change significantly under the stress. Meditation will allow you to clear your mind and diminish the amount of stress that you feel. This will improve your overall mood and help you to better focus on the task at hand. You can learn to meditate through many of the amazing videos available online for guided meditation or by looking for instructional books at your local library. The most important thing to remember when attempting to meditate for the first time is that it is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but is something that everyone can learn how to do and definitely benefit from doing.

 

Take Regular Breaks from Studying

Do not let the hours slip away during your test prep. Many people make the mistake of being so focused on studying that they forget to give their eyes and mind a break every now and then. Your brain will only be able to retain so much in one sitting, and taking the time for breaks every once in a while will give your body the time it needs to rejuvenate so that you can retain the information you are studying during the next study period.

 

Talk to Someone about Your Test Jitters

When you feel stressed while trying to prepare for exams, it is a good idea to talk to someone about the way you're feeling. Simply sharing what you are stressed about may help to lessen the amount of anxiety you feel. If you feel that you are not going to be able to pass the test and might miss getting your certification, tell someone. They can sit down with you while you run through practice tests and give you the encouragement you need and help you identify areas that need improvement. Talking to someone about your feelings can help you better manage them, and that means you'll focus on the test rather than your jitters come test day. There are many people with whom you can share your feelings of anxiety. You can talk to a few of your classmates or friends to see if they are feeling similar. You can speak with your parents about the situation and they may be able to offer some solutions that have worked for them, when they have had issues with the jitters. You could even speak with your school guidance counselor or a licensed therapist if need be. Both will listen to how you are feeling and offer practical advice for how to help alleviate the some of the anxiety you are feeling.

 

Avoid Caffeine on Test Day

Don't make the mistake of having a lot of caffeine on the day of your test! You'll already feel a bit jittery from the nervousness involved with taking a major exam. If you drink caffeine, it will make your heart beat faster, your brain will become slightly dehydrated, and you will not be able to focus as much. Drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced, filling meal, and getting plenty of sleep the night before the test are the best ways to be sure you are going to be able to focus and pass any exam.

 

It’s Testing Day; Relax!

The more relaxed you are, the more likely you will do your best on the test. To help yourself relax, arrive at your test 30 minutes early. This way you have time to calm yourself down if needed. If you are feeling nervous, take a walk and breathe deep. Tell yourself out loud, "I have practiced, I have prepared, I am ready to take this test." Hey, you may look crazy talking to yourself to anyone passing by, but who cares, it's testing day. Focus on yourself! You can do it!