Every high schooler faces at least some test anxiety. Maybe your heart starts pounding, or your palms get sweaty, or big blank spots take root in your mind where just moments before, were all the hard-studied facts you needed to know. If you’ve ever sat there listening to time ticking loudly away, you know what we’re talking about. This doesn’t have to be the norm, however; with some simple steps, test anxiety can be a memory.

Eat a Good, Hearty Breakfast

You’ve heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Getting enough vitamins and minerals supports healthy brain development, so make sure you fuel your body with healthy, beneficial foods instead of sugary, empty-calorie foods. Here are some great options:

  • Scrambled egg whites with whole wheat toast, fruit and a glass of milk
  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit and a side of juice
  • Yogurt and fruit parfait
  • Breakfast burrito, filled with scrambled eggs, green peppers and sausage

Get a Restful Night’s Sleep

Nothing is more important for your success than a good night’s sleep. Not only does sleep help regenerate your body and alleviate the previous day’s stresses, but it also helps your brain understand the new information you have learned. Without sleep, students tend to forget important facts and information, which in turn, leads to more stress. According to researchers from UCLA’s Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, students who lost sleep did worse on tests and comprehended less during class. To succeed, make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep, especially before a big exam.

Express Your Feelings Through Writing

If writing is your forté, write about your feelings shortly before the exam. You don’t need a degree in writing to know how to express yourself through words, and writing about your feelings before an exam can help alleviate stress. Researchers at Colorado and Chicago universities suggested writing as a simple way to reduce stress and test anxiety, according to U.S. News & World Report. The University of Colorado team developed a writing exercise, primarily for women, to focus on writing about positive influences in their life, such as friends, family and music. According to their research, the “value affirmation” exercise generally raised women’s grades from a C to a B. According to U.S News & World Report, the University of Chicago group’s writing assignment improved high school and college students’ scores on math tests.

Positive Visualization

The night before the exam, escape to a quiet place and visualize exam day. Think positive thoughts, envision yourself knowing all the right answers and think of yourself as stress-free. See yourself receiving the test, then calmly, confidently taking the exam. As you visualize this, picture what the questions will be like and what the answers are. Take heart in the fact that you’re organized and understand the material. On test day you will have already seen yourself confidently taking the test. Positive visualization will help you realize what you are capable of achieving.

Watch for Negativity

You can eradicate negative thoughts. Pay attention when you tell yourself things like, “I’m never good at taking tests.” “I never get 100 percent.” “I’m going to do terrible on this test.” Instead, put a positive spin on your thoughts; tell yourself, “I’ve prepared for this exam. I know the right answers. I will do the best I can.”

Nancy Magnus is a freelance writer and an elementary school art teacher who lives in New Jersey.

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