Stress, Anxiety, and Standardized Tests: Tips to Reduce Fear and Manage Nerves

Standardized tests can evoke feelings of stress and anxiety for even the most academically successful students.  Stress and anxiety over these tests often manifest themselves in fear-based thoughts and emotions. Mental or emotional symptoms of stress may include racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, feelings of impending doom, and feelings of being scattered. However, stress and anxiety brought about by standardized testing can also have physical effects on the body, causing students upset stomachs, back and neck pain, headaches, jitters, chills, sweating, or feelings of lightheadedness. 

Obviously, none of these mental, emotional, or physical symptoms are ideal when it comes to students being able to perform their best on a standardized test.  Even worse, it’s now well documented that stress and anxiety can have both short and long term health consequences.  That’s precisely why it’s more important than ever for students to try to alleviate, or at least reduce any stress and anxiety stemming from a looming standardized test.

Students experiencing stress or anxiety about a forthcoming standardized test such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT should try employing these tips to reduce text anxiety. In doing so, students are liable to perform better, all the while safeguarding their physical wellbeing. 

Tips for Reducing Anxiety Before the Test

·         Choose a Test Center That Is Convenient and/or Comfortable

Wherever possible, students should choose a test center that is convenient to avoid potential traffic delays, or other unforeseen obstacles that may result in students running late.  Likewise, if possible, choosing a test center with plenty of lighting, and adequate space is ideal.

·         Be Prepared Ahead of Time

Students should make a checklist of items needed for the test and have them ready to go before the day of the test, to avoid scrambling on test day.

·         Take a Walk, or Engage in Other Exercise

In the days leading up to a standardized test, students should make sure to get a bit of exercise.  Exercise is said to sharpen the mind, in addition to releasing feel-good hormones in the brain. 

·         Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation exacerbates stress and anxiety.  Students need to make it a priority to get plenty of sleep before test day.

·         Make Smart Food Choices

Before any standardized test, it’s highly advisable to avoid a lot of processed sugar, and to be mindful of caffeine consumption.  Both have been linked to elevated levels of stress and anxiety

Tips for Reducing/Managing Stress While Taking Standardized Tests

·         Remember to Breathe

Studies show that focusing on taking long deep breaths helps to slow down a racing heart.  In addition, students will find that taking deep breaths can help to refocus when thoughts, or fears start to overwhelm. 

·         Stay Focused on What’s in Front of You

Students need to remind themselves during any standardized test to be present, and focus on the question at hand, not the next 50 questions.  Likewise, if taking the written part of an exam such as the SAT or the ACT, students should try to cross that bridge when they come to it, instead of thinking about it while answering multiple choice questions.

·         Consider Shifting Positions While You’re Seated

Students who feel stress and anxiety coming on during a test may find relief in shifting positions, or engaging in light stretching to relax tension in the neck or shoulders.

·         Accept Some Anxiety as Natural

Students who are nervous or anxious about a test sometimes find that worrying about their anxiety itself creates even more stress. So, it’s helpful to understand that some level of anxiety is to be expected.  Tests can put pressure on students, and that’s ok.  However, if students are experiencing debilitating stress or anxiety surrounding a pending exam, it may be time to seek professional help to reduce or better manage stress.

Our professional tutors and educators are here to help students to perform their very best on standardized tests.  With years of experience, and plenty of advice and tools for students looking for additional secrets to success on standardized tests will find a wealth of useful information available in private, one-on-one tutoring, small group classes, and test prep courses available at our tutoring center. 

Contact us today for more information 763-559-8378