Tests have a disproportionately large role in the course of your life, if you think about how much time is actually spent taking them.
How you perform during a few short hours while hunched over a small desk in some strange building can have major consequences. Your score on an entrance exam can determine which college you go to. Which college you go to has a lot to do with which job you'll get, and so on. The ACT and SAT loom large as a decider of fates, and for most students, pressure and anxiety play a pivotal role in one’s performance. No fun.
I don’t need to tell you that anxiety and stress are the exact things that you don’t need in your study plan. The way anxiety presents itself varies—it can be emotional, physical, or psychological. Symptoms of anxiety range from slight jitters to full-blown, blank-out, deer-in-headlights syndrome while taking a test.
Other symptoms that may indicate you might be suffering from test anxiety include:
Difficulty getting started with studying.
Becoming easily distracted even after you have started.
Concerns that you will not do well regardless of your best efforts.
Symptoms such as lack of focus, sweaty palms, upset stomach, headaches, and tension.
Difficulty concentrating, following instructions, or understanding test questions, remembering material and/or strategies after the test is over, but forgetting them while taking the test.
Are you REALLY ready for your test?
Anxiety could also indicate that you realize you aren't ready for the test—but that is not all it indicates. It can be larger than that.
Anxiety indicates that something about the test is causing you fear. Is it fear of being judged? Is it fear of not performing to your potential? Or is it just an old fear of test-taking, recycled into this new experience?
Regardless of where anxiety comes from, it’s real. It is a worry and fills you with dread about test performance, which can be triggered by "the big day." The importance one places on the test (which may or may not be a high-stakes test) can create proportionate test anxiety, but the trigger to high anxiety is usually performance and/or judgment on the test itself. Not to mention the pressure you might be getting from your parents, friends, and teachers.
But enough about what we don’t want; let’s now address what we can do about it.
What to do about Test Anxiety: Get Over It!
First, if you believe that we attract and create our own reality, then the more you worry about being 'consumed' by anxiety, and the more likely you'll create that as a part of your reality. So, if your anxiety takes the form from an obsession down to something you're merely worried about, etc., we can find new ways to create an alternative and believable scenario. The goal is to defuse the situation by imagining that things can be different, and to create a new reality that is believable and achievable. In the lingo of integrated coaching, we’d recommend (and do with our students) time-line therapy, hypnosis, reframing, guided visualization, and more.
One method that you might find helpful, and which you can do on your own, is visualization.
This is an absolutely effective way of helping to achieve your goal; even Olympian Sean White does it! It is as easy as seeing yourself performing a physical feat. The mind cannot always tell the difference between things imagined and things that are real. So, imagining taking the SAT or ACT and performing your best, and then receiving your goal score is a great start to manifesting peak performance.
Anxiety and excitement feel very similar. These emotions produce, in small amounts, a feeling of increased energy, confidence, focus, and commitment. A moderate amount of this feeling is normal prior to a test, and can actually enhance performance. However, to consistently reach that very beneficial anxiety level is very difficult; too little and you won't feel it, and too much will limit your ability to function normally on the test. Rather than label a client's anxiety as "abnormal", we provide techniques to identify any emotion that is not beneficial or helpful.
We coach them to transform any level of dread, regret, low self-esteem, worry, nervousness, or feelings of diminished performance due to the negative feelings or anxiety, into the best emotive mindsets, such as feelings of being optimistic, focused, and ready to tackle the test.