This post is all about test anxiety for college students.
Tests are the most terrifying aspect of college. Yeah, sure, you have to meet new people and join clubs and do the best you can with your overall GPA. But, dang, those tests are terrifying.
They incorporate essay questions into an already super stressful testing environment, make them three hours long, and lump them in the same week at the end of the semester or quarter.
No pressure. However, while that no pressure was sarcastic, you can take control of your academic future and limit the stress you feel around testing. To be clear, you are 100% correct to be terrified of taking tests. They’re stressful.
Luckily, this is a guide to help you tackle that test anxiety for college students. Check out these tips to feel better already and create a plan for acing your next exam.
This post is all about test anxiety for college students.
TEST ANXIETY FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS:
1. Start studying early to avoid cramming before exams
No one likes to cram. We can all agree on that. So, when it happens, it’s because we haven’t started studying early enough. The way we can finally break ourselves out of this rut and start studying earlier is by going with a plan.
At the start of your semester or regular intervals throughout (maybe for the first half then the second), make a plan. Figure out when major assignments and tests are scheduled for your courses and guesstimate how much time you need for each.
Then, break up that time throughout your schedule so that, by the time you have the exam or essay due, you’re more than ready to turn it in.
The key is sticking to this schedule, so make it manageable and keep yourself accountable by asking others for help or giving yourself rewards along the way.
2. Make a study schedule and stick to it
Figure out how you get motivated. Do you like others to keep you accountable (you’re a people pleaser to the max who can’t disappoint others)? Could you care less if someone tries to remind you to study so you need to keep yourself on track through sheer will?
Maybe you’re a rewards kind of person. Test out different methods of getting yourself going so that you can keep yourself on the study schedule. You might try starting off with bite-sized pieces of study time (an hour).
3. Take practice exams or quizzes to build confidence
One of the best ways to study is to formulate your own questions and exams based on the materials. Odds are, especially if you make it a regular practice, you’ll be able to guess more of the questions than you think.
You can also find some pre-made tests online, through crowd-sourced sites like Quizlet. Use these tests to test your recall and change up your steady methods.
4. Get enough sleep and exercise regularly
Your physical health is just as important as your academic health. The moment you let one slide, the other one goes with it. So, avoid skimping on sleep. When something needs to go, it can be sleep every now and then.
But, when you sleep fewer hours for months at a time, you’re operating at a portion of your potential. You’re making it harder to do your best. Give your mind and body time to regenerate overnight (neural plasticity means you’re making connections while you sleep!).
5. Eat a balanced diet and avoid caffeine
Take time to notice what you’re putting into your body. When you’re eating, your goal is not always to gain nutrients. Sometimes, you eat for comfort, to spend time with others, or to put something into your body because that’s better than nothing.
Too much of any one food group will hurt you, but we hear all that the time. What we don’t hear is that guilting yourself while you eat something that tastes good or makes your mind feel good hurts you more than the food does.
So, yes, eat the fresh foods, the nutritious foods that fuel your body but also eat the foods that make you feel good because you deserve to eat the foods that remind you of home or taste good in the moment.
6. Visualize success and positive outcomes
Practice seeing yourself successful. Take moment to define success and see where you are when you are successful. Think about whether it’s the test score or the knowledge or the job at the end. Wherever you are, hold onto the feeling.
Visualization is similar to manifestation. By acting like you already have the life you want, you subconsciously make decisions that get you closer to the life you want. So, see yourself with a high GPA, great test scores, and the knowledge to carry on.
7. Use positive self-talk and affirmations to boost confidence
Define your limiting beliefs. Why are you nervous about failing? Have you studied (you probably have, so be kind to yourself)?
Take this moment to talk yourself like a friend. Your friend comes to you and tells you they’re nervous about their upcoming tests. Odds are you’ll tell them they studied enough because they’re a good student and they’re way smarter than any test.
The same goes for you, but consider the answers to the questions above: what makes you so nervous? Are you thinking you’ll fail because you didn’t study hard enough? Maybe the subject isn’t your strong suit.
Whatever the case may be, turn those fears into affirmations. Instead of saying you didn’t study hard enough, you can say, “I trust myself to know how much to study because I care about my education.” For the subject, think, “I’m worth more than this test in a subject I struggle with and I need to be compassionate to myself because I’m doing my best.”
8. Break up study sessions into shorter, more manageable chunks
Be realistic. No matter how you study, when you study, or if you study, this is the golden rule you always have to follow. Be realistic in setting the times you want to study, the length of study sessions, the frequency of study sessions, and how material to cover.
Study sessions are draining and they can be unpredictable. Some material is heavier and more difficult to comprehend than other material, so be flexible.
Be kind to yourself and listen to your brain when your focus is failing. Sometimes, you need to take a ten minute break to make that two hour study session productive.
9. Stay organized and keep study materials and notes in order
Rewrite your notes when you need to. Add color or shapes. Put sticky notes on the page. Make those notes pop and matter to you. If you like cleanliness and simplicity, make sure those notes reflect that.
You may think rewriting your notes is a waste of time. Here are two reasons why you should rethink that: 1) you will likely hate studying notes that are too messy for you and 2) rewriting notes is a great way to force yourself to revisit them.
Annotate your notes if that works best for you. Take boring notes and add stuff. Go back through the textbook to add to your lecture notes. Find what works for you and stay organized for the test coming up.
10. Connect with classmates and form study groups for support
Find study groups. Create them if they don’t exist. Contact your peers and communicate with them about how much you want to work with them.
Study groups are beneficial when they’re made up of people you aren’t close friends with because you’ll actually get work done.
They benefit you in two ways: 1) you teach other material, which is one of the best study methods and 2) you get clarification where you’d otherwise be confused.
11. Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on your own progress
As tempting as it is, remind yourself that everyone is on their own academic path and what says success to them might be different than you. Focus on your end goal, what your success looks like, and ask for help.
Odds are the people who intimidate you would love to talk through the material. So, if someone scores higher than you, get vulnerable and learn from someone who gets it.
In terms of milestones like graduation and higher education, you have to remember what your success looks like to you and in the context of your life. The people you know from Instagram or class a couple times a week probably don’t show you the moments where they’re breaking down and struggling.
No matter what your academic path is you should be proud of yourself because you’re doing the hard thing that works for you. There’s nothing braver than choosing the path for you and accepting that you’re doing it simply because you know it’s your path.
12. Take breaks during study sessions and engage in relaxing activities
Take the break! Take the break. You need the break and deserve the break no matter what your brain is telling you. Once you feel yourself falling asleep or losing focus, give your body what it needs.
Go for a walk, eat a snack, change locations, or take a nap. Listen to your body because forcing yourself to study when it doesn’t want to leaves you drained emotionally, intellectually, and physically.
13. Use flashcards or other study aids to help memorize information
Use actual flashcards or a site like Quizlet to practice recall. This works especially well when you’re studying a language or need to match word to definition.
You can use flashcards for rapid-fire study and memorize lots of information in the most efficient way. However, you should always vary your study techniques to make sure you’ll recall definitions and translations in any form they’re presented (create test questions!).
14. Write down worries or concerns and create a plan to address them
Think of this as a to-do list. Write down all of the ways you think you need to study, any areas you need to revisit in the subject material, and anything your worried about when it comes to actually taking the test.
Leave nothing out. The moment you put it down on your phone or paper, you’ll feel better about writing out all of your fears. You’ll already be aware of the worst case scenarios, so you can’t be surprised. Plus, you can work through them and create a plan to address your fears.