Test anxiety is about feeling like you have no control over your predicament. What are the best ways to overcome it?
The world we live in is full of sources of anxiety. Most of these anxieties come and go depending on the situation that we’re in, and they, fortunately, don’t have long-term effects on our lives. One anxiety, however, does: That’s test anxiety.
What Is Test Anxiety and Why It Occurs
Whether we like it or not, much of our lives are determined by the institutions that we enter. And one of the most common ways of assessing abilities is the standardized test. Entrance tests, in particular, are extremely stressful. Tests like the LSAT and MCAT directly influence whether you get to fulfill your dreams or settle for second-best.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, that’s true. But so is the fact that standardized testing is the best tool for determining proficiency that’s currently at our disposal. It’s not likely that there will be a replacement any time soon, as it would be costly and impractical for universities to assess students another way.
Test anxiety is characterized by the sense of having no control over your predicament. Biologically, prior to an exam (or really, any stressful situation), the body releases a hormone called “adrenaline”. This aims to help you enter into a fight or flight response more effectively. However, in some people, the feeling of anxiety can become so intense that it becomes utterly impossible to focus on the task at hand.
This also explains why some people are “frozen in fear” during stressful situations. Symptoms of anxiety include profuse sweating, nausea, and shaky hands. Test anxiety has also been found to cause depression, low self-esteem, anger, and a sense of hopelessness.
In essence, all types of anxiety happen when the body is so overloaded with various stimuli that the person simply cannot keep up with the input that the body is receiving.
How to Overcome Test Anxiety
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to overcome test anxiety. Here are some of them that have been successfully used by stressed testers…
Rest and Nutrition
The body runs on finite resources. It also needs rest in order to function at optimal levels. You don’t want anything to distract you during your test, so get enough rest and eat enough food before heading out to take the test. Alertness and focus are key to being able to remember things from previous readings.
While preparation does not guarantee success, it does offer the reassurance of confidence. Reading in advance, getting help from a professional tutor, like an MCAT tutor (or whichever tutor is appropriate for your test), or even preparing what you’re going to wear, eat, and bring. All these habits and many others will help you develop a sense of readiness.
The thing about preparation is that the more you prepare, the more confident you’re going to be. Being able to visualize a scenario before it actually happens also helps give you a sense of familiarity with what might happen when it does happen. Psychologically, familiarity is the earliest form of comfort that we get acquainted with as its roots go as far back as infancy.
Getting to the testing site on time not only bypasses the anxiety of having to catch up with your fellow testers—and earning the ire of the proctor—but it also grants you a few moments of solace. You’ll need this time in order to collect yourself and to mentally prepare for the task at hand. This brief moment of meditation is important, as it helps you set your mind to focus on the test.
Focus is easily the most important aspect of being able to overcome your test anxiety. And while saying this doesn’t exactly inspire a sense of calmness on its own, it is an active stance that you need to take during your exam. Though it’s one thing to not let anything bother you (ignoring outside variables), it’s another thing to actively dedicate your attention to the task at hand.
You are not necessarily required to finish the test quickly. However, with focus, you are also able to prompt your body to secrete adrenaline. This, in turn, amps up your body’s performance during a test. And as a bonus, finishing your test early allows you to browse over your previous answers.
Scientifically, the first step to overcoming test anxiety is by acknowledging that you have it. This way, you are able to determine that there is indeed a problem. You are then able to find the best possible solution for it. So, whether or not you fall victim to test anxiety depends entirely on you. Prepare, learn, and build your future with the tools and talents you have. May these bits of information guide you well.