By Jesse Collier. Updated September 2017.
With finals just around the corner, it can be a time full of anxiety and stress for most students. We’ll teach you some top tips to combat your test anxiety, so read on!
Everyone gets it. It’s like watching a storm appear over the horizon, knowing it’s coming for you.
Test anxiety affects more than 25% of students. It can lead to decreased test scores, malnourishment, decreased sleep, and a plethora of other issues.
I believe that most people get at least a little bit of anxiety when finals season rolls around. The key to fighting it off is to recognize when and how it affects you, then to know how to work around it.
The tips below are general tips that should work for mostly everyone. Some people have different tactics they use to overcome test anxiety, however this guide will help get you on the right track.
Also don’t forget to get a copy of our pre-built exam study schedule to help you study!
Start Preparing Early
Feeling fully prepared for your finals is one of the most important parts to overcoming test anxiety. When my professors in university start talking about finals, that’s generally when I start to prepare for them. Usually this is about a month before the first one.
If you’re unsure about how to start preparing early, visit an academic counselor (more on that below).
Most schools still require students to do assignments and projects until a few days before the start of exams. During the last few weeks before exams start, you should begin to review the material from the start of your class. This will provide a good refresher on topics you may have forgotten.
Visit an Academic Counselor
When I first got to university, I thought academic counselors were only for people who were doing poorly in their classes. This is as far from the truth as you can get. Academic counselors actually have so much more to offer.
I had heard around campus that academic counselors can help with improving grades, but also with test preparation, and almost any other problem related to academics. So I decided to make an appointment for test preparation.
At first, I didn’t know what to expect.
My academic counselor was very welcoming and let me explain to her about my classes and how I was feeling a bit of test anxiety. She always knew what to say and was very understanding about my issues.
By the end of the appointment, I was armed with a full study schedule for my exams, which allocated time to each of my subjects, along with other useful information and tips for studying.
I made more appointments after that, and I believe they helped to get me through exams and get over my test anxiety. The moral of the story is that there is always people willing to help you, especially on campus, but you have to take that initiative and try it out!
Manage Your Time
Those last couple weeks before finals start can be rough. Classes are winding down, people are going out because they don’t have much work, and procrastination is rampant.
In order to not fall victim to exam-study procrastination and test anxiety, you need to manage your time. A study schedule will allow you to plan out your day while allocating time to studying for finals.
Organize a Study Schedule
Use our pre-built exam study schedule to organize your study time!
On your study schedule, organize your day into blocks of time. The best way would be to organize your day into 3 x 3 hour blocks, with two hour breaks in between each block. So you would have a block from 9AM-12PM, a break until 2PM, a block from 2PM-5PM, a break until 7PM, and then a block from 7PM-10PM.
That’s 9 hours of studying in total. The 2 hour breaks are essential for you because they allow your brain to process the information that you just studied. During your breaks, don’t do any studying, so go to the gym, watch some shows, or get something to eat.
The first thing on your schedule should be when your exams are. This will allow you to write in enough time to study for each one. It will also let you allot more time if you need it for a particular exam. Start with your hardest exam, and work backwards to your easiest one.
Set an Environment
It has been proven that students do better in exams when they study and write the exam in the same environment. Context-dependent memory describes this theory.
For example, if you usually write your exams at a desk in a gym, try to study at a desk. It’s been proven to increase memory recall and retention.
It will also help to study at the same time of your exam. So if your calculus exam is from 7-10PM, write in times on your study schedule for calculus in that 3 hour block.
Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety in the Exam
For some of us, no matter how much we prepare, we may still blank or freeze during the exam. Here are some top tips to overcome test anxiety while in the test:
- Get a good night’s rest before the exam
- Make sure you eat a good meal a couple hours before the exam
- Depending on how caffeine affects you, it may be a good idea to take a caffeine pill. Some people get too hyped on caffeine and can’t focus in the exam, whereas other people are fine with it. If you’re taking caffeine, a caffeine pill would be better to avoid bathroom breaks
- Don’t cram in the last 2 hours before the exam. It has been proven that it takes about 2 hours for your brain to process and retain information when studying, so anything in that critical period before the exam will just overload your mind
- In the exam, if you start to panic because you can’t remember a concept, stop and breathe. Try to go through the concepts that you know in your head and one of them will likely trigger a memory of the question at hand
- Don’t rush through the exam. Even though you may think you know the answers, it is best to make sure you haven’t skipped any important concepts or answers in your responses.
I know it can be hard to overcome test anxiety. Hopefully with these tips, you can combat your stress over finals and ace your exams.
Lastly, good luck with all of your exams! Remember to start studying early and follow the tips I outlined.
If I missed any tips or strategies you use that help you, feel free to leave a comment below!