Overcoming Test Anxiety
You have studied all week for an upcoming math test. You know the material, and you have prepared for it for days. It’s the day of the test, and you’ve got a good night's sleep. You ate a good breakfast and are ready to take this test. You get to school and sit in your seat. The test gets handed out, and you look through it. As you’re staring at the problem, your brain goes blank. You start solving the problem and aren’t confident with how you solve it. You recall doing this type of problem, but your confidence goes down at that moment. You keep telling yourself that you know this problem but cannot solve it. This is called test anxiety. Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety — a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure's on to do well. This pressure can often make us feel overwhelmed, making us lose self-confidence. Knowing where this anxiety stems from can help you determine the best strategy for you.
There are various reasons why test anxiety stems from. The first is expectations. We want to live up to the expectations others set for us. If your parents tell you that you have to get an A on a test, you may stress thinking about how you can live up to their expectations. You start doing this for them and not for yourself. These people don’t have these expectations for you, but you start creating these expectations in your head. They value your presence more than your grades. If you believe that you can‘t live up to the expectations of others, tests may make you especially anxious. A way that you can eliminate these expectations is to set goals for yourself that you have to achieve. Don’t live up to the expectations of others. Rather, live up to your own expectations. Setting these goals reduces the anxiety you may have due to other people.
Second, we heavily rely on grades to determine our worth. We strive to receive the best grades; when that happens, our expectations increase. We start hyper-focusing on our grades because if we don’t achieve that, we start making ourselves feel small. We allow our grades to define who we are. This gives us anxiety during tests because we’re worried about what we will receive on our tests. Grades cannot define who a person is because there can be failures that can only lead to personal growth. Testing allows us to determine where we went wrong in the test and focus on that area. Before your next exam, you can give this material a quick review. Mistakes on a test pinpoint areas that you need to study more thoroughly for the next exam. Knowing that grades don’t define you and that you can use them to improve will reduce that anxiety.
Third, we have a feeling of helplessness. We feel helpless when we don’t know the outcome of the test or why we’re studying for it. Then you realize that you simply haven’t studied for the test enough, which makes you feel helpless at the moment. Even though you are at fault for not studying, you still get anxious because that is a responsibility you did not fulfill. You might also underestimate the material, which leads to not studying as well. That guilt and fear can lead to anxiety during the test. This can be eliminated by changing your studying habits. Instead of thinking that you already know the material or starting at a later time, start now. Starting now can help you retain the information, which can help reduce anxiety.
There are many more reasons you may have test anxiety, but these are some of the bigger reasons and how you can get through them. You want to be consistent in studying, set achievable goals for yourself, and remember that you are worth more than your grades. So now, take the time to introspect on how you can slowly eliminate that anxiety. How can you use these strategies to eliminate test anxiety? What can you change? Imagine yourself walking into school on test day, ready to kill the test. You haven't underestimated the test, but you have done your best to prepare for it. You aren’t anxious about the outcome because you have set goals you expect to meet for yourself. These goals allow you to realize that the test grade will not define you but will help you grow.
All in all, test anxiety is common amongst high school students but can be eliminated through the aforementioned strategies. These are just small steps you can take to be a successful test taker.