Aliya Ladha- Contributing Writer
Do you study for hours and feel as though you get nowhere? Blank out on tests? Test anxiety is not an easy obstacle to overcome. However, there are many strategies out there to help reduce anxiety and improve your performance. Studies show that high anxiety while taking tests can impair the performance of students. Truth is, we all feel a little bit of anxiety while taking tests. Melissa Fallon-Korb, the director of the counseling center at SUNY Oneonta, shed some light on strategies to reduce test anxiety.
Test anxiety can be defined by the physiological tension of the body. In other words, it occurs when you put too much pressure on yourself to “get that A.” All humans become nervous when they take tests and this is completely healthy. This nervousness is what makes us productive; it is what our bodies use to motivate ourselves to keep trying. However, there is a point where that nervousness can become unproductive. Fallon-Korb called this point the “Red-Zone.”
This point is reached when you lose confidence in your abilities and begin telling yourself you can’t do it. The body perceives this as a “fight or flight” situation, and replies by sending a “flight” response to the stressful situation. As a result, anxiety worsens causing the brain to focus on only the loss of confidence. This is the point where performance is at risk: bodies tense up, palms become sweaty and all knowledge is erased. Reaching this point is very common among college students.
Stress can harm not only a student’s GPA, but also his/her confidence. The key to managing test anxiety is to know yourself: are you a last minute studier, or do you need days to memorize a chapter? What calms you down? What freaks you out? Situations called triggers increase your bodily arousal and can lead to the “Red-Zone” of anxiety if not addressed.
Fortunately, there are strategies that will help you manage these situations and keep you out of the “Red-Zone.” Fallon-Korb says that some of the best ways to deal with test anxiety include slowing your breathing and moving on with the test to see if you can answer a different question. She went on to say knowing your anxiety level is vital to learning how to reduce the stress of these situations. Knowing when and how to calm yourself down and retain your confidence in the middle of a test can save your GPA.
Teachers can also help students who are struggling with test anxiety by providing extra time on tests and quiet environments. Teachers should also teach test taking and study strategies. Simply talking to their students about tests can also reduce anxiety.
If test anxiety is a problem for you, make sure you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause problems with memory retention, just as it impairs your ability to learn. As much as we all think our coffee is making up for the sleep we’ve lost, the truth is caffeine doesn’t improve learning or recall abilities.
There are many strategies, such as breathing techniques, available on the counseling center’s website. The counseling center also offers one-on-one sessions, as well as support groups for those of you who want to reduce test anxiety. “Anxiety is treatable, and we can help,” Fallon-Korp said.
Visit the counseling center website for more strategies, tips for mental health and stress assessments. The Center for Academic Development and Enrichment (CADE) also offers tutoring services to help with studying. Knowing your materials and developing healthy study habits are also vital to learning how to manage test anxiety. So, remember to have a good night sleep, take a deep breath, tell yourself you can and ace that test!