Test Anxiety: How to Take On Your Exams Without Stress - College Info Geek

By: Thomas Frank

- This video is brought to you by Snorlax, Kronk, and that one chicken from the movie Surf's Up. Three dudes who never let the stress of adversity get to them too much. Actually, Snorlax just kind of sleeps through adversity. Anyway, test anxiety, let's talk about it, and then let's do our best to destroy it. The time leading up to a test is so laden with stress and anxiety because tests are high-pressure situations, and high-pressure situations can actually deplete your working memory, and reduce your performance. This is commonly called "choking," and it's common to all types of high-pressure situations, not just academic ones. Now, it's important to note that a little bit of stress and a little bit of fear can actually be a good thing. Stress heightens our senses, it brings out our best.

Like the famous radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow once said, Without any stress at all, we'd just be apathetic. Stress means you care. Too much, though, and your health and your performance start to suffer.

So, today, I wanna help you mitigate some of the stress and fear that's caused by your exams. And specifically, I wanna focus in on three main fears that I think all students have when exams are around the corner. Number one: the Fear of the Unknown. Number two: the Fear of Inadequacy, the feeling that you're unprepared and not ready for the challenge ahead. And, number three: the Fear of the Stakes, the feeling that everything is riding on this test, and that your life will basically be over if you fail. And, actually, now that I think about it, there are a couple of other worries that I think most students probably face, but I wanna wait until the end of the video to briefly touch on those. First, let's talk about these three big ones, and then go over some specific things you can do to reduce the stress caused by each of them. So, let's talk about our first fear, skeletons.

Er, I mean, uh, the Fear of the Unknown. So, really, the best way to conquer the fear of the unknown is to make the test as much of a known quantity as possible. Do your best to make that test feel like a familiar old friend when you walk into the class and face it down on test day.

Test Anxiety: How to Take On Your Exams Without Stress - College Info Geek

Now, there are three main ways to do this that I wanna go over in this video, and the first one is to simply recreate the test conditions as best you can when you're studying. This means actually going to the location in which you'll be tested, and if it's your classroom, I don't really think sitting in class every day really counts, because it doesn't really recreate the high-pressure situation of the test. So, go there during the off hours.

Even if the room's empty, take a desk, sit down, and try to do some active studying while you're in the actual room you'll be tested in. Don't stop at location either, try to recreate the time constraints, and maybe even the type of questions you'll be quizzed over, and basically make it a dry run that doesn't really have the high stakes of the actual test so that when you actually do take that test, it's as if you've already done it. But, you might be asking me, "How do I actually "recreate these test conditions "if I don't know what's gonna be on the test?" And that leads into my second tip: Ask your professor. A lot of students make the mistake of assuming that if the professor didn't readily give out information in class about the test, that they're unwilling to give it out if asked. This isn't always the case, so if there are aspects of your exam that you're unclear on, ask your professor. You could ask them about the format, what types of questions you'll be asked, true/false, multiple choice, essay style, how long you'll actually have to complete the test, and what sort of materials are allowed in the testing room. And my final tip for getting to know the test ahead of time is to look for old tests, a lot of fraternities, sororities and other student organizations maintain test banks that you might be able to look through.

And if you don't have access to anything like that, there's sites like koofers.com which maintain their own databases. Our second big fear to conquer is the feeling of inadequacy, the feeling that you're unprepared for the challenges that the test presents. And, honestly, the best thing you can do here is simply to prepare, like the famous marathoner Juma Ikangaa once said, that: So, use the other tactics in your arsenal the discipline hacks, the planning techniques, and make sure that throughout the semester you're working diligently, so that way when you get to the weeks leading up to the test, you don't have a whole lot of catching up to do. You've been preparing the whole time. Like, if you've ever seen a Rocky movie, my favorite part is actually the training montage, because that's the stuff he has to do in order to win the fight.

Your entire semester is your training montage and if you don't use it correctly, then the test is not gonna go well for you, it's just that simple. But let's talk about those couple of weeks going up to the test, whatever you did during the semester, revision is really important and there's a couple of things you can do to make it go more smoothly. Number one is to go through your notes and the other materials you got throughout the semester and see what areas of the material that you're not really clear on.

Know your gaps, that will allow you to focus most efficiently on the facts and concepts you really need to solidify in your mind and not waste too much time going over stuff you're already pretty clear on. Additionally, you can create something that the author Walter Pott calls a home stretch schedule. This is a more detailed schedule that you probably don't need to break out during the earlier days in the semester, but in the couple of weeks leading up to a test, it can be really useful. So on this schedule, you wanna make sure you block out time for your set obligations like class and work, and also for the more mundane things you take for granted, like eating and sleeping, because these are very important when you're studying for finals. But then you actually wanna block out time for studying. That way, when you create that list of gaps and the material you need to go through, you know when you're gonna actually study it. Also, when you're revising for tests, it's doubly important that you study actively, like if you're just passively going through your notes and textbooks, you're wasting a lot of precious time. So, make quizzes for yourself, and make sure you're having to actively recall information and pull it out of your brain.

Now, what if you tried your hardest to prepare throughout the semester, and revise efficiently, and you still just don't feel confident about your ability to do the test well? Well, I've got a couple of suggestions to ease that fear, and the first one is to simply act confident, tell yourself that you're gonna do well on the test. Whenever I go into a new situation where I feel a little bit unprepared, I just tell myself that I'm gonna do well. I might not, but there's no reason to worry about it, so I just give myself the confidence.

You can do this too, and there's also one other thing you can do to ease your worries before a test. And this is actually backed up by science. So, a study done by the University of Chicago actually showed that students with test anxiety were able to raise their test grades by simply taking 10 minutes before the exam to write out their worries, to air 'em out. So if you're feeling anxious about a test, try this. Show up a little bit early for the test, pull out a piece of scrap paper, and write out why exactly you're worried. This pulls it out of your brain, puts it on paper, puts it aside, and lets your brain focus on the actual test.

Science. And the final worry we're gonna go over in this video is the fear of the stakes, the fear that this test is the be-all, end-all, the determining factor in who you're gonna be, and where you're gonna get in life. And, I just wanna tell you, it's not.

One test does not define you, and in fact, your grades don't define you. If you've ever read my blog post on the Student Success Triangle, you'll know that academic performance is really just one point of the triangle. The other ones are value creation and relationship building.

And if you're putting in effort in these areas as well as your academic performance, one test is not going to ruin you. You can think of your test in the same way that I think of job interviews. When I've gone on interviews in the past, I don't think of it as an audience with this all-powerful arbiter who decides whether or not I get to stay in my mom's basement for the rest of my life. No, it's just a conversation between two individuals who wanna figure out if they can provide value for each other. Think of your test the same way, it's just one examination of a small body of knowledge you've learned over a set period of time, that's it. But, also, feed off of some of that pressure. Find your center, generate some confidence, and let that pressure hone your senses. Let it make you stronger rather than weaker.

Now, let's briefly touch on those two final worries that I alluded to earlier, the first one is perfectionism. A lot of students feel like they have to do absolutely perfect on an exam, and I just wanna tell you, you don't. The writer and speaker Scott Berkun once said, This should be your mindset going into a test. Know your goals, work as hard as you can, but don't expect absolute perfection from yourself. It's unhealthy. And, the last worry is past failures.

If we fail one time, we tend to see a trend forming and we think we're gonna fail again. This is due to something called the Negativity Bias, which I'll talk about more in-depth in a future video, but basically, we tend to put more weight on negative experiences. The thing to realize here though is that the outcome of any particular situation is determined by the factors that went into it, so if you change the factors, you can change the result. Change the way you study and prepare, it'll change the grade you get on a test.

So, that's it for this video, and once again I have to leave you with a quote from the roman poet Horace, who said, Hopefully, the tips here have helped to quell some of the anxiety you're feeling about your tests, and if you're looking for more tips on how to do better on your exams, well, I have a couple of suggestions. Number one, I made a video at the end of last semester on how to ace your exams, and you can click right there to watch it, and also if you're looking for some specific techniques to use during the actual test, my friend Simon Clark, who's a Youtuber from the UK made his own video, and you should check it out right there. Also, you should probably just subscribe to him. He makes good stuff. That's all I've got, and if you have additional tips that I didn't cover here, feel free to leave 'em down in the comments for other students to see. And thanks so much for watching this video. (fast-paced synth music) Hey guys, thanks for checking out my video on test anxiety, if you enjoyed it, you can leave a like so other students can find it more easily.

And also, you can get new videos on being a more efficient student every single week by hitting the big red Subscribe button right there. If you wanna improve your grades, I wrote an entire book on the subject and it's actually free, so if you wanna get your copy, just click the picture of the book. You can find a summary and links to anything I've mentioned in the companion blog post for this video which you'll find by going to the orange logo right there. If you missed last week's video, there's a clip of it playing, so definitely check it out. And also, if you wanna connect or have questions or ideas for new videos, you can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, and speaking of Twitter, here's one final bonus tip for test anxiety that I posted on my Twitter page yesterday. Thanks for watching.

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