As a tutor who specializes in test prep, I have met and worked with many students who have high levels of anxiety when it comes to taking exams. My job as a tutor is twofold: instill the right techniques and methods for test taking; and instill confidence in my students by helping them to defeat their test anxiety. And while everyone is different when it comes to coping with exam stress, I always tell the following five tips to every student:
Once you step foot into the exam room, that’s it - don’t waste any time wishing you prepped more. Don’t spend any time freaking out. Don’t be overly confident. You are there. You are in front of that scantron (or computer monitor). Accept that you will perform how you are going to perform. Don’t let last minute doubt or hubris distract you. I often tell my students during the tug of war between overconfidence and panic, to metaphorically drop the rope. Dwelling on either extreme is not going to help you.
4. Prepare for Test Day.
The night before the test, make sure you have everything ready to go. Lay out your clothes, pack your snacks because you don’t want your day to be ruined by forgetting something important. Carve out at least 10 minutes before the test to relax and breathe. I always recommend to pack some healthy snacks and some not so healthy snack. Eat your apples first and then if you need an extra boost to get you over the last test hump, go for that candy bar. As tempting as it is, make sure you eat the candy bar for your last snack. Sugar can help you concentrate for a short period of time, but it will make you crash. Make sure your sugar crash is AFTER the test.
3. Control your heart rate.
Many people don’t believe me when I tell them they can control their heart rate. Let’s do an experiment. Think about the thing that is stressing you out the most right now. Dwell on it for a few minutes and then take your pulse. You will notice it is off the charts.
Now, take 10 deep breathes with your eyes closed. Tense the muscles from your toes to your neck and then release all at once. Now feel your heart rate. It is much slower, isn’t it?
When you are feeling panicked, remember to control your heart rate. This will help relax you and put you in the test taking zone.
2. Do not cram.
Do not cram for any test. Don’t even study the night before the exam. You will cause both your brain and body unnecessary stress. Cramming will affect your sleep schedule and diet. If you have the urge to cram, stop yourself. Go out to a movie or go for a jog - anything to keep your mind off studying for the test.
1. Practice good study habits.
The best way to ensure you are not bogged down with stress is to practice good study habits weeks before your test. Make sure to study a little bit everyday- make it a part of your daily routine. Complete practice tests every three weeks to ensure you are applying the skills and techniques you’ve learned. Get help on the subjects you have the most difficult with. Get up early every day. Make sure you eat well and stay healthy throughout the time you are prepping for the exam.
This guest post is written by Adam Levin, the Owner & Founder of Tutor Delphia. Tutor Delphia can help you prep for the SAT and other standardized tests online or in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Find out more at www.TutorDelphia.com.