Overcoming Unhealthy Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a common phenomenon among students, especially since it can often determine whether you have to retake a class or not.  Not all test anxiety is bad though.  In fact, a healthy amount of test anxiety can actually encourage you to study harder and at least shows that you care about doing well on the exam. Especially a Nursing Entrance Test like the DET, NET, HESI or PSB.  Overconfidence, on the other hand, can lead to silly mistakes.  Test anxiety can become a negative factor when in creates so much anxiety and stress that you can’t concentrate on preparing for the test.  Stress can cause you not to recollect information that you have studied which usually leads to panic and even more anxiety.

Even though anxiety is a major stressor during exams, several emotions can affect your preparedness for an exam.  Anger or depression, even if they are caused by factors that have nothing to do with the test, may make you forgetful.   For this reason, good test preparation not only means preparing the material it also means being mentally and emotionally prepared for an exam.  Standardized tests are a special case where mental preparation is vitally important since you do not know the exact content of the test.   Let’s take a look at a few strategies to reduce your anxiety before your next exam:

  1. Boost your confidence. It sounds clichéd but you really do need to believe that you can do well on the test in order to do well on it.  Don’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you assume doom you will usually be right.  One big confidence booster is being prepared for a test.  Don’t procrastinate because cramming is not the key to success on an exam.  Most things are much more manageable if you space your time appropriately to handle them.  A week of preparing material for an exam will allow your brain the time it needs to process the information.  You may need to enlist some help.  Studying in a group or getting help from a professional tutor are both excellent options if you really want to succeed.  Sometimes just knowing that you’re in it with someone else or receiving help from someone who has “been there, done that” may be just what you need to give you the confidence to approach the test with a healthy amount of anxiety.
  2. Get comfortable. While you may not have control over all the specifics of the room where you will be testing there are things that you can do to make sure that you are comfortable in your testing situation.  If it allowed take the opportunity to get familiar with the room where you will be taking the test before exam time.  Take note of the temperature.  Being too cold or too warm during a test can be very distracting, so dress accordingly.  Give the room a good once over and you probably won’t be nearly as distracted as you would be in an unfamiliar setting on test day.  A brief chat with the proctor of the test may also do much to increase your comfort level.  Speaking from experience proctors are hardly ever as intimidating as they appear to be.
  3. Get happy.  It’s not the end of the world; it’s a test.  School has enough drama without having a heart attack about every test.  Once you pass the Nursing Entrance Test, you will have many more tests!  Doing something to improve your mood before you take a test can make a big difference.  You want to go into the test with a positive frame of mind so set aside a little time before the test to indulge in something you enjoy.
  4. Postpone, perhaps. While postponing a test is not always a realistic option sometimes it may be a good choice.  Standardized tests for college are offered several times a year and if you feel you’re just not prepared it may be a good idea to take the test at a later date.
  5. Lose the attitude. As was mentioned earlier anxiety is not the only emotion that can get you in trouble on test day.  When you’re angry it is a lot harder to concentrate on the task at hand.  So the fight with your parents the other day or the fact that your favorite sports team lost, or any other negativity needs to be pushed to the side so you can focus on doing well on your exam.
  6. Don’t let your imagination run away. Don’t let imaginary worries start popping up to distract you.  Like did you lock the front door or what if you break the lead on 5 pencils in a row or what if your desk breaks in the middle of the test.  Now if you haven’t looked over any information at all for the test you should be worried but of course you want to do well so you haven’t allowed that to happen. The point is deal with the real and you won’t even have time to worry about imaginary problems.
  7. What if I have test terror? So when you have a test it goes beyond just regular anxiety.  You have panic attacks and you may even black out or become extremely ill before a test.  The help you need may best be found with a certified psychologist.  Since this is a legitimate handicap they may be able to offer you suggestions for therapy or may be able to fill out the paperwork to allow you to take the test in a special setting.  If part of your anxiety is taking the test in a large group you may be able to inquire about receiving the test in a format that you can take at home or taking the test in in individual setting with a proctor present.

What if these options aren’t available?  Go back to tip number three and recognize that having a positive attitude is very important.  Can you visualize yourself doing well on the test, answering questions with confidence, remembering key dates and events that you have studies in your preparation for the test?  Think about the last time you did an exceptionally good job on a test and recognize that you can repeat that.  Continue to dwell on positive thoughts throughout the test and before you know it you will have completed the test and had much more success than you would if you had allowed negativity to overwhelm you.  Remember; don’t allow negative test anxiety to get the best of you.

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