How to beat the stress of tests


Photo by Gianna D’Argento

By Gianna D’Argento
Contributing Reporter

With midterms creeping up on us, test anxiety can be inevitable. No matter how much time is spent studying, it never seems to be enough to calm the nerves during the moments leading up to the exam. The anxiousness of taking a test, writing a lengthy paper, or giving an oral presentation can prohibit students from reaching their ultimate potential.

Often, it’s not taking the test that causes the nerves. It’s the fear of failure or the unknown. Which questions will the professor choose to put on the test? Will they ask a question about a lecture you were dozing off in? Or maybe you were pinning on Pinterest instead of taking note of who Sigmund Freud’s nephew is. Whatever the case may be, sometimes things come up, are distracting, or you’re just not getting it.

Students put immense pressure on themselves to succeed in college. Whether it is for scholarship opportunities or wanting to please parental influences, these pressures can make testing a bigger deal than it really needs to be.

Here are some tips and tricks to help ease test anxieties while preparing for midterms (and finals, too!)

Make a to-do list. Although obvious, making a to-do list actually helps get a student organized and prevents a student from forgetting exam or due dates. The more organized you are, the less added stress you will have. Handwriting your assignments and important dates in a planner or on a dry-erase board help you remember and stay organized.

Writing all that you have to do instead of just referring back to the syllabus can also help with time management, which will allow you to plan ahead and stay on track. When you finish a test or complete an assignment, scratching or erasing it off of your list will feel rewarding and will make you feel a sense of accomplishment or relief.

Listen to ocean wave soundtracks or classical music. Having a peaceful sound, like ocean waves, or music playing as you’re studying can help soothe feelings of anxiety while stressed. Listening to ocean waves puts one in a meditative state that can result in a calm and peaceful state of being.

Set a timer to pace yourself. Although having a time limit may seem like it would add more pressure, it is important that you keep track of time. Setting a timer on your phone or tablet for hour increments can help with time management and can serve as a preventative against feeling “burnt out.” When the timer goes off you can take a break, go to the gym, eat a snack, or switch to a different subject. Being aware of your time can also prepare you for the upcoming test, and help you get used to the idea of being timed and accomplishing certain tasks in a given time.

Visit Roosevelt’s Counseling Center in Auditorium Building 470 to make an appointment or grab a pamphlet on how to overcome test anxiety. Students are welcome to make an appointment with an available counselor to talk through chronic test anxiety or other issues they are facing. These sessions are free to all currently enrolled students. For more information, visit the Counseling Center at Auditorium 470 or call (312) 341-3548.

Study in a group. Sometimes teaching others the material or being taught by a classmate can help you retain the information more effectively and also serves as a distraction if you feel anxious about an upcoming test. Maybe a classmate also feels anxious about taking the exam, allowing there to be a common ground to connect on. Knowing that there are others who also face test anxiety can make facing it more doable.

Reward yourself! Whether it be a piece of chocolate (or five) or catching up on your favorite TV show, having some sort of reward to look forward to while studying or after the exam is over will give you motivation to get through the week.

It’s easy to let the pressures of a midterm get to you. Some students add more pressure than necessary on just one test. Remember, it’s just one test out of the whole semester. Getting a B or C (or lower) is okay. During midterms, especially, view it as a first try, if you don’t do as well as you hoped or needed to do, reevaluate new tactics to reach your academic goals.

While actually taking the exam, remember to breathe and to not see testing as a negative thing. View it as an opportunity to prove that you’ve worked hard and have adequately learned the material. Maybe seeing it as a game or a “puzzle,” as some professors call it, will decrease the negative pressures it puts on anxious students.

Learning complex topics can be difficult to memorize, if there is an answer to a question that you think you may forget while taking the exam, a helpful tip is to scribble it down on the exam when you first receive it—preventing it from escaping your mind as you focus on other questions. As long as you jot this quick note down after putting away your notes, there’s nothing wrong with that!

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