Last Updated On: August 12th, 2020
In this second installment, we will look at Test Anxiety on ‘The Big Day’! The Test is right around the corner. How do you deal with the anxiety that can come with the Day of The Test?
To read our first installment: Test Anxiety: Dealing With Stress Before Your Test Day
To read our third and final installment: Test Anxiety: Dealing With Stress During Your Test
Remember your scheduled panic and reward times
Hopefully you set them after reading the Before The Test Day Blog, otherwise, set them now. Why not? You’re not going to learn anything new the morning of the test. Let yourself relax.Remember your scheduled times. Remember them every time that you are tempted to panic early and every time that you feel that this is an endless thankless process. It is almost over, you will be able to melt down, and you will be able to relax, but not quite yet. There is one last step, but the times are set for the wrap up activities. Focus for that final push.
Recognize what you’ve done
Acknowledge that you have done all that you were capable of doing in the time you had with the commitments that you had. If you have done preparation, worked with a tutor, studied, did practice work, then you need to acknowledge that to yourself. Give yourself credit for your efforts and trust in them. This is no time for should haves and could haves. This is the time to remember that you DID. You did all that you could for where you were. Everything else can wait for your scheduled panic time. If you maybe haven’t done as much as you’d like, think about that after the test, and move to the next tip!
Give your body the chance to feel comfortable
We are doing these wonderful exercises of our mind, but your mind can not fully engage until your body relaxes. At our core, we are still animals. Even though we KNOW that we are safe in the testing room, our body still needs the time to be sure that there isn’t a saber-tooth tiger waiting behind a desk somewhere. Until your body is convinced of its safety, it will not release all of its resources to your brain; give it the time it needs. Make sure that you have driven by/visited your testing center in advance if you can (if it is somewhere new). Get to your location and allow your body to be reassured of its safety. Repeat this when you get into the room.
If you can access the room early, go in and get settled. If it is a class test, do some light review or just relax until the test starts. If you are not allowed to access the room early, get in and seated as soon as possible. Having your materials (pencils, calculators, etc) organized in advance, you will have more time to settle in.
If you are doing a computer based test that you get to start, do not rush to start the test. The test starts when YOU start it. You control the test; do not let the test control you. Settle yourself, THEN start the exam.
In general, the more important the test is, the more time you will want. Your body recognizes test stress as possible danger, so you need to give it the time it needs to be comfortable.
Touch things while you wait
Remember that the primary cause of test anxiety is being out of the present. Test anxiety comes from focusing on the past (remember when I did badly before) or focusing on the future (what if I do poorly on this test, the results are so important, etc, etc).
The problem with focusing on the past or the far future is that the test questions aren’t there. The test questions are in the immediate future. You can’t work on them at all now; all you can do is keep your brain accessible enough that when you get to the test, it is ready to do everything that you ask. You can only do that by being where you are: in your house, on the way to the test, in the waiting area.
A simple way to bring yourself back to the present is to touch things. Really touch them. If you are being aware of the texture of your pencil, or the seam on the side of your jeans, or the edge of the table, you are distinctly in the present, where you are.There is nothing in the present to worry about; there is only you and the room where you are waiting for your test. This trick works well for those pre-test jitters!
The Three Pass System
One way to minimize test anxiety and also time stress is running a three pass approach to your test. Test questions can typically be categorized into one of three categories.
Type 1 questions are straightforward. You know how to do them and can do so fairly directly
Type 2 questions can be one of two types.
The first type you know how to do, but they will take longer.
The second type are questions that you don’t know, but feel confident that with a little attention to the question, you could figure it out.
Type 3 questions are the ones that you look at and think, “huh?”
Categorize your questions. Do the Type 1s. Work quickly but carefully on the Type 1s. You want to get all of these right, so be careful of casual errors. Make sure that you double check “What is the question asking?”, so that you are answering the right question.
Mark (circle for paper tests, flag for computer based tests) the Type 2s.
Guess your fallback answer and mark your Type 3s.
You should always have a default answer for guessing. If you don’t, pick one now so that you are not wasting any valuable test time figuring out which answer to guess
Mark your Type 3s with a 3 on a paper test and as a list on your scratch paper/white board on computer based tests.
One of the benefits to the three pass system is that you are able to start with your easier Type 1 questions, giving you accomplishment and a warm up with your topic. By the time you address your Type 2 questions, you already have some questions done (yay!) and the questions themselves have gotten you into your topic.
Work those Type 2 questions. Now is the time to read carefully, do tedious calculations, and take the time to get as many of these right as possible.
Some of your Type 2s will turn out to be Type 1s in disguise (yay!). Some will end up being Type 3s once you look at them; give them your default answer and mark them as Type 3s.
Now work through those Type 3 questions.
After having worked your Type 1 and Type 2 questions, you are in the best possible space to address these questions.
Some of them may end up being Type 1 or Type 2 after you have warmed up through the first two passes.
This Test Anxiety series has brought you up to The Test, but it won’t leave you here. Continue on to the third installment: Test Day, During the Test to find strategies that you can use if anxiety shows up during your exam.