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Reducing Test Anxiety
Anxiety is something that everyone experiences to some extent in any stressful situation. For students, one of the most frequent stressful or anxiety-provoking experiences is taking tests. All students may feel some effects of the anxiety associated with exams. Anxious feelings can range from a nervous feeling to forgetting and blanking out or actually becoming physically ill. Slight amounts of anxiety frequently result in improved test performance, but anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to adversely affect a person's performance on the exam.

Mental Preparation is of primary concern in dealing with test anxiety.

Before the exam, the student can do several things:

  • Be thoroughly prepared. A confident knowledge of course material is the first step in reducing test anxiety.
  • Review material. Review should be spaced throughout the week. This aids memory development and retention.
  • Don't cram. A final review is fine, but trying to cover two months of material in two hours is not an effective way to prepare for an exam. Begin your review process early to help reduce last minute anxiety.
  • Arrive at the exam location early. Relax, and don't talk about the test with friends--frantic reviews are often more confusing than helpful.

During the exam, be test-wise and have a plan for taking the exam.

  • Some initial tension is normal. Generally, when you receive the test, stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly, relax, and then start reviewing directions and test items.
  • In a timed test, make a schedule for answering questions. Allow more time for higher point questions. Pace yourself to answer as many questions as possible.
  • Don't spend too much time on any one question. If you can't come up with the answer, quickly move on. You can always come back if you have time. Higher scores will usually result from trying all items.
  • If you get stumped on a question, move on to questions you can answer. This will get your mental process and concentration ready for more difficult questions.

Physical Preparation is a second important area to consider in reducing test anxiety.

  • Before the exam, develop good study habits and techniques. Adequate food and rest are an important part of any study program, especially before an exam. When people are tired, they become frustrated easier and experience more anxiety.
  • During the exam, find a place where you will have some privacy, that is well-lighted and comfortable. Bring everything you will need (scratch paper, pencils, calculator, etc.). Avoid locating yourself near doors or other high distraction areas.

Relaxation Techniques are a third way you can reduce anxiety. When used with mental and physical preparation, relaxation before and during an exam can aid retention and improve test performance.

  • Let your body relax, put your arms at your side, close your eyes, and let your mind go blank.
  • Beginning with your head, first tense the muscles in the forehead and scalp for about 10 seconds. Then let them relax completely. Think about the difference and concentrate on making those muscles relax more and more.
  • After about thirty seconds, repeat the process with the muscles of your face and jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, etc., until you reach your toes.
  • While continuing to relax, imagine those situations where you feel most tense and anxious. If you become anxious, stop imagining and relax again. Repeat the process of relaxation and imagining until you feel no anxiety while imagining.
  • Practice relaxing at times when you feel anxious--while studying, reviewing, or actually taking the exam (if time permits). This will reduce tension and help clear your mind for study and review.

Everyone has anxiety. If you think, however, that your anxiety is extreme, it may be necessary to seek help from a trained counselor. Counselors are available through the University Counseling Center, 225 Whitesitt Hall, 235-4044.

Please contact Taylor Zingg- Student Coordinator gorillasinyourmidst1@gmail.com or J.T. Knoll at 620-235-4062 or by email at jknoll@pittstate.edu for more information. Or stop by our temporary office - 209 2nd floor Hartman.

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