When it comes to getting ready for an upcoming exam, there’s no substitute for academic preparation. But even if you know your material inside out, there’s still an advantage to be gained from putting yourself in the proper mindset. Some students who experience test anxiety claim that even when they’ve studied hard, they still freeze when the test is placed in front of them.
Find Out About the Exam
Fear of the unknown can be a great contributor to test anxiety. You can dispel some of this fear and its resulting anxiety by asking the instructor/teacher directly about the nature of the exam and by looking over previous exams for further clues. Asking the instructor/teacher seems so obvious that it’s surprising how many students fail to do it. And yet, in many cases, instructors/teachers are not at all hesitant to discuss what the test will involve. Ask about the types of questions (objective, essay, or both), the length of the exam, and the materials (textbooks, notes, calculators) you’ll be allowed to bring with you into the exam room. You can gain further clues about the nature of your upcoming exam by looking at exams from previous semesters and noting how each test was written and what the questions covered. When you do ﬁnally sit down to take the exam, you’re less apt to be knocked off balance by surprises.
Exams may be held in auditoriums, large lecture halls, or ordinary classrooms. To be psy- chologically prepared for an exam, get acquainted with the site where the test will take place or with a similar location. A week or two before the exam, study for a few hours each evening at the site where you will be taking the test. Your familiarity with the room and the sense of control you feel while studying will help establish a link between working in this room and succeeding on the exam. If you can’t study at the room of the test, you can still prepare yourself for the atmosphere of the test by studying in a quiet area, by practicing at a chair-desk if you know that’s what you’ll be sitting at for the exam, and by timing yourself as you work to get used to the challenge of performing under a deadline.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
The ideas and strategies for managing stress can be helpful throughout the semester. But often it’s not until exam time that these techniques are truly put through their paces. It is essential to address the stress of a test with a can-do approach. Exam-anxious students often sabotage their own efforts by preparing themselves for failure. To counteract this inclination and to cultivate an optimistic attitude, use deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help you relax, use afﬁrmative statements to counter any negative self-talk, and use visualization to help chart a course for your success.