Stressed During Tests? Try These 9 Prep Tips Before Your Next Exam

Find yourself anxious before tests? Try these tips in the days before and the morning of to keep you calm and focused on test day.

Test-taking can be an extremely nerve-wracking and stressful experience for many of us. After all, there’s a lot of pressure to perform well.

While test anxiety can sometimes be caused by procrastination, even the most prepared students can still experience the symptoms of test anxiety.

There are a lot of reasons you might be nervous before a test.

Maybe you had a bad experience during your last exam or perhaps you fear being a “failure”.

And while some stress before a test can be motivating and help you to stay focused, too much can be detrimental. Students who experience test anxiety score 12% lower on average than those who don’t.

So what can you do about it? Here we’ll walk through nine essential tips to help you prepare in the days ahead of your exam and on the morning of.

01

Ask For help

One of the most important steps you can take in overcoming any sort of anxiety is to ask for help.

Many students feel anxious about their test anxiety and never end up asking for help. But like we pointed out above, this can have real consequences.

As a student, there are people around you who can help, not to mention who are willing to help.

Try talking with a trusted teacher or professor. Often they can provide a confidence boost or even provide tips for studying for their specific tests.

You can also reach out to your school’s guidance counseling program and testing centers, as they’re familiar with tips for handling exam stress.

You can even have a conversation with someone at your school’s student health center. The counselors there have mental health resources and can provide you with in-person help.

There’s nothing weird about test anxiety and you should never feel like you can’t ask for help.

02

Be Prepared

We know, this sounds totally obvious. To feel confident during a test, you need to study…duh.

But like we mentioned above, not being prepared is one of the most common causes of test stress.

So be sure to go to class, do all assigned readings, finish your assignments, and dedicate time just for studying.

Last minute cram sessions don’t count!

03

Stop Studying

Yes, we realize the irony of following the above tip with this one. But hear us out!

Just like being underprepared can stress you out, over-studying can be detrimental to your nerves.

The adage you can’t study enough just isn’t true. On the contrary, studying too much can lead to a lack of sleep, physical health problems, and even depression.

Go for a walk outside, watch a movie with friends, hit the gym– do anything to get away from your books.

Give your mind the break it needs…after you’ve already put in the work that is!

04

Get Enough Sleep

Pulling an all-nighter is seen as a rite of passage in college. But really, this tradition can cause more harm than good.

Depriving yourself of sleep prevents any information you’ve studied from being stored in your memory.

Sleep is incredibly important and has so many benefits. Without it, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage in ways like:

  • Your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain in charge of making decisions, can’t operate at 100%
  • You don’t get to dream, which can help you make connections between the knowledge you already have and new information you’ve recently picked up
  • Your brain doesn’t get the opportunity to click “save” on new information you’ve learned

All of the above is very important when it comes to nailing your test.

So make sure you’re fitting sleep into your busy schedule.

05

Create A Pre-test Routine

Just as with any big moment taking place in a high-pressure environment, creating a routine can help you excel.

A pre-test routine should get you in the right headspace. You should feel alert but calm and you should be able to stay focused on the task at hand.

What should a pre-test routine include? Everyone is different and what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you.

Try asking yourself: What do you do to calm yourself in other situations?

Common examples include meditation, eating specific brain-boosting foods, squeezing in a quick workout, listening to a certain playlist, or even just doing something relaxing like reading a book.

Many students find it helpful to make time the night before a test to pre-pack their bag with everything they’ll need the next day to keep them from feeling like they need to rush around in the morning.

What makes up your routine doesn’t matter; what does matter is that it helps you to feel confident and ready to walk in the door on test day.

06

Practice. Then Practice Some More

If you find tests to be stressful, why would you want to purposely take more?

It’s simple: by continuing to give yourself opportunities to practice tests, you’ll grow more comfortable with them over time.

Testing is indeed a skill, and just as with all other skills, practice can help make you better.

For starters, practice tests can improve your time management skills. The time crunch is one of the worst parts of taking a test for a lot of students. Practicing with the allowed time can ease the stress associated with it on test day and give you one less thing to worry about.

Additionally, practice tests can help you develop the skills you need to answer different types of test questions. Multiple-choice, true/false, and open-ended essay questions all require different approaches. And practicing with each will help you approach all of them more confidently in the moment.

07

RTFQ

This one is a personal favorite, not to mention one of the easiest tips to start implementing.

RTFQ: Read The F*g Question!

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s normal for your mind to start racing and going off into far and distant places. Instead of keeping your focus on the test, you’re thinking of who knows what.

All of a sudden questions that you should - and actually do - know the answer to look completely foreign.

So take a deep breath, slow done, and RTFQ!

08

Start With The Easy Questions

While we’re on the topic of questions…another strategy you can employ is to start by answering the questions you’re most familiar or most comfortable with.

This is a great and frankly easy way to start building up your confidence when you’re just starting. It can be a reminder that you’ve put in the work and you actually do know this stuff!

Not to mention, it can also help save up time to answer questions you may need to spend a little extra time thinking on.

09

Limit Internet Use

In the days leading up to a test, try limiting the amount of time you’re spending online.

On the morning of the test itself, you may even consider staying offline as much as possible.

There’s a connection between the amount of time students spend online and their anxiety levels on test day. It’s been noted that students with higher levels of anxiety around tests had spent more time online on average.

This makes sense if you think about it.

Spending more time online gives us yet another way to avoid whatever it is that’s stressing us out. In the case of a test, wasting time online takes away from the time we could be spending studying or practicing strategies to help us stay calm.

Rather than dealing with our stress, we’re allowing it to fester and grow.

So try cooling it on screen time for a while.

10

Test Anxiety Tools

One of the most important steps in feeling confident on test day is to make sure you’re fully prepared.

Here are a few tools you can use to help you get ready:

GoConqr has an impressive suite of tools that can help you break down a complicated topic into smaller, more manageable pieces for better understanding. Tools include flashcards, mind maps, flowcharts, and more.

Evernote is a fantastic way to stay organized as a student and keep you on top of all of the information you need to know before a test. This tool lets you organize information from multiple sources and sync across different devices. You can keep notes, create to-do lists, and prioritize items.

Marinara Timer is great for students who are stressed about time limits during tests. You can set a custom timer to the same length of time you’ll have to complete a test and go through practice questions, getting you better used to the amount of time you have.

Conclusion

The pressure to perform well can make test days an extremely nerve-wracking experience.

And while a little bit of stress can be advantageous to you, too much anxiety that leads to racing heart, nauseousness, shakiness and more is anything but helpful.

But you don’t need to resign yourself to test anxiety. Finding the right strategies and tools can help you remain calm and confident, and deliver a score that reflects the student you are.