Last Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Students face many important tests during their academic career: SAT, ACT, AP, and more. These tests can be life changing, and this undoubtedly brings anxiety for most students. You want to do well on these tests, but there’s always a fear of not scoring high enough to get admitted, earn college credit, or maintain a certain GPA.
Anxiety can be a major problem, but don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to overcome your fears and feel more prepared and at ease going into your tests. Just follow these tips and you’ll be confident and ready for your next big exam.
Meditation is a great way to relieve stress and calm your nerves for any kind of anxiety, but it’s a skill that takes time to develop. You won’t be an expert immediately, but with practice it’ll get easier. There have been many studies that show meditation can be a great way to improve focus and center yourself.
When meditating, aim for mindfulness. You want to dispel all your anxieties, problems, and so forth in order to feel in the moment. Find a quiet place to sit and relax. Focus on your breathing; breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the now and empty your mind. With a bit of luck and determination, you’ll reach a state of Zen.
Related: COVID-19: How to Cope with Anxiety
If mediating doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t feel bad. It’s a process that can’t be rushed. Keep practicing and stay positive. It’s well worth the effort, but if it doesn’t work, you have plenty of other options to help quell your anxieties. For instance…
Experience and knowledge can reassure you
Often we’re scared of the unknown, and tests are huge unknowns. What’s going to happen? Where are you going to take it? How long will it last? What if you do badly? These questions can be troubling, but by understanding the test, you can become more comfortable before you even sit down to take it.
Before taking a big test like the SAT or ACT, learn everything you can about the test. Take practice exams and mimic the conditions of the test as closely as possible. The SAT is usually taken on Saturday mornings; therefore, you should try taking a practice exam on a Saturday morning and even go to the library to imitate the public but hushed test-taking atmosphere. This will give you a feel for the testing conditions and what to expect. Lastly, make sure to scope out the actual testing location before you take the exam if you can.
Preparing during the pandemic
Unfortunately, some tests will have to be administered online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This raises a bunch of additional issues for students, like how to prepare for an online exam. It’ll be quite different compared to sitting in a test hall with your peers, but you can still prepare for it.
Many tests, such as AP exams—and possibly the SAT and ACT—will be offered online this year. Instead of taking a test from a prep book, you’ll take it on your computer or other device. Just like taking the test in person, you should try to mimic the test conditions as close as possible as you prep for your exam. Figure out where you’d be most comfortable but alert to take the test. Maybe your bedroom is best, or there might be an extra room or office in your house. Close the door, time yourself, and take a practice test to get a feel for working through the test on a computer.
In addition, do your research. If you’re taking an online AP exam, then make sure to visit the College Board’s website and see how the process will work. This also applies to other tests: visit the official websites or your classroom portals and learn everything you can about the new online process. You’ll want to be prepared in case anything goes wrong. Hopefully everything will return to normal soon, but if you’re forced to take an online exam, you can still prep and do just as well.
Make diet and exercise a priority
Exercise has excellent health benefits, and it’s a great stress reliever. Many of you might already love to exercise, or maybe you’re a student-athlete—but for those who aren’t as active, it’s never too late to start. Many people dislike exercise, but that’s often because they don’t know how to make it fun. If you like nature, go for hikes. If you like the water, swim. The important part is consistency, so find something you like and keep at it!
Exercise doesn’t mean much without nutrition to go along with it. There’s a saying: “You are what you eat.” A bad diet can be problematic for studying and test taking. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to help maintain your energy levels. Before your next big test, make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. Even if you’re not a big breakfast eater, just make sure you eat something—even an apple or banana, which are quick snacks and good energy boosters, are better than nothing at all. Also, don’t eat too much sugar, which can hurt your focus. A proper diet will allow you to feel good for a big test.
When test anxiety seems all-encompassing, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only student going through it. It’s understandable to feel stressed about a big test that can impact your future, but with these tips, hopefully you can go into test day feeling confident, relaxed, and able to do your best work. Good luck!
For more advice on preparing for your next big exam, check out our Test Prep section.