Overcoming Test Anxiety: How To Cope And Improve Your Performance

Test anxiety is a growing problem for university students, affecting about 16-20 percent of them, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. There are several causes of test anxiety – fear of failure, lack of preparation, and a poor test history –  but for international students, the main cause is usually the immense pressure to perform. Failing a test makes international students feel like a serious letdown to themselves, their families back home, and their sponsors in the case of those who are on scholarships. With exams just around the corner, it’s normal to be feeling some anxiety creeping in. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of edginess, as it can help you sharpen your focus come test time. But, if it morphs into full-blown test anxiety, it can affect your performance, grades, and even the trajectory of your life. To prevent this, here are a few great ways to cope with test anxiety.

Preparation is key 

Ensuring that you’re well prepared for a test will put your mind at ease and get rid of your anxiety when test day arrives. It’s no secret that studying is the key to test success, but many students still don’t know how to study well. First of all, studying does not mean cramming everything in your books a few days before your test. Last-minute cramming can actually lead to more test anxiety every time you forget a sentence or a word that you know is an integral part of the answer. If you want to be well prepared, you must develop good study habits throughout your school life. You can start by setting aside some time every day or every other day to go over your schoolwork while identifying the areas that you don’t understand very well so that you can work more on them and ask for help if necessary. Thanks to modern technology, you can also find various test prep products online that you can access on your laptop or smartphone, allowing you to study for tests anywhere. Lastly, find out everything you can about the test – types of questions and possible topics covered – to avoid last-minute surprises.

Following proper test day practices 

When test day finally arrives, there are a few things you can do to relieve any traces of test anxiety and increase your chances of success. On the night before your test, you want to ensure that you get the recommended 7-9 hours of quality sleep. This not only soothes your anxiety, but also ensures that your brain is fresh and operating at 100 percent during the test. You also want to start your day off with a healthy, nutritious breakfast free from high sugar foods that may lead to a sugar crash when you’re taking the test. If caffeine makes you feel jittery, skip the coffee or energy drinks before your test. After your meal, make your way to the test location well ahead of time so that you avoid the anxiety that comes from rushing in at the last minute or even losing a few valuable minutes through being late. Once you have the test in your hands, read the instructions carefully, budget your time, and get to work.

Ask for help 

If test anxiety becomes too much of a problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the tutors, instructors, and counselors in your school. In some cases, you may even qualify for various test-taking accommodations, such as additional time or getting a quiet room for yourself. It’s also a good idea to seek help from a psychiatrist or doctor to find out whether any underlying medical issues may be causing test anxiety. Talking about your anxieties with a medical professional may help diffuse their powerful hold on you. If necessary, the doctor may also prescribe medications to alleviate your anxiety.

Whether it’s a routine test or an important final, test anxiety can derail months or even years of hard work if you don’t deal with it. By implementing these coping strategies, you’ll be well on your way to stress and anxiety-free test-taking. However, always keep in mind that no single test can ever define you as a student or a person.