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Students

Preparing for finals, test anxiety

November 21, 2013

You can almost feel it in the air. No, not winter or the upcoming holidays -- Finals Week!

Students who have been attending class, taking good notes, keeping up with the required readings and studiously studying may still struggle when final exams come around. Not because they don’t know the material, but rather because they are challenged by test anxiety.

Sometimes it is hard to know if it is general nervousness or test anxiety getting the best of you when it comes to exam time. One way to tell the difference is to trace it back and determine how well you prepared for the exam and knew the content.  If you headed into the test feeling nervous and regretting you didn’t study more or wishing you would have come to class more often, it is more likely you are fighting a case of regret rather than test anxiety. If you felt well prepared for the exam and still did poorly, perhaps it is an issue of test anxiety. Another tell-tale sign is if after the exam you can easily recall the answers that were escaping you during the exam.

Test anxiety occurs when feelings of anxiety interfere with one’s ability to recall previously learned information during a testing situation. In other words, you "forget" or "blank out" what you've previously learned and thus do poorly on a test.

Tips to reduce anxiety

As you begin to head into Finals Week, take note of some great tips that can help you tackle any question.

  • Relax and breathe – Focus on your breath to calm yourself down. Take deep breaths while the test is being passed out or anytime you feel stuck on a difficult question. 
  • Stop studying at least 30 minutes before the test – Taking a break right before the test to recharge your batteries will benefit you more than those final few minutes of cramming.
  • Think positively – Adopt a positive mindset that dwells on your successes. Negative thoughts will only increase your level of anxiety.
  • Don’t talk about the test – Avoid talking about the test immediately before or right after the exam.
  • Focus on the task at hand – No matter what else is going on in your life, your only job while taking the test is to focus on taking the test. Use your breath to pull you back into the present moment to focus.
  • Get plenty of sleep – All-nighters really aren’t as helpful as you think. Really!
  • Develop supportive, healthy routines – Consistency may provide you with a sense of comfort when preparing to take the test.  Sit in your usual seat.  Always eat and power up with the same healthy snack beforehand.
  • Remember your test grade does not determine your self-worth – The test is an only a measure of your knowledge on a subject at a given point in time. If you are struggling with test anxiety, recalling information can be difficult. It is important to remember that this snapshot in time does not define who you are as a person.

Lastly, if test anxiety has been a struggle for you all semester and you have tried a number of these tips already, consider seeking test taking accommodation through Resources for Disabled Students and Learning Assistance Consultation through the CSU Health Network Counseling Services.