This post will show you the best test anxiety tips to help you crush midterm season with minimal anxiety.
It’s that time of the year again.
By “that time,” I mean the time when I watch whatever childhood series Netflix has recently added and pretend that I don’t have three midterms this week. (This time around, I’ve been watching iCarly.)
It also means my fashion sense goes to the back of my priority list and that’s okay. While I love fashion, it’s something that should always be fun and make you feel good, not a reason for stressing about how you look.
And during midterm season, we have enough to stress over, I would say.
I’ve never dealt well with test taking — thinking about the idea of taking the SATs makes me want to curl into a ball and cry. It’s so easy to think everything is riding on this one test. You start calculating how bad you can do on this midterm to still pass the class, so you’ll be able to keep your GPA, to be able to graduate, to get a job at your dream company. And then you realize it’s 5 minutes before the test and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use a calculator or not.
Not to mention, that while many older adults would like to mention that taking exams online is a privilege we have, we know that’s not true. Having experienced both in person and online test taking, with online there’s a whole new set of things to stress about.
Will my Zoom work? Will my internet keep functioning? Will my computer crash? Will the testing website save my responses? All things we can’t control, yet some of our teachers assume we can.
It’s a stressful time amidst an already stressful time for everyone. (In case you forgot, like some states have, we’re in a pandemic.)
For years I’ve struggled with test anxiety, and while I can’t say I have a magic cure, certain things have helped me relax and consequently study better. So here are some things to keep in mind as we go into everyone’s least favorite season, which frankly seems to last all semester long.
While everyone has different things that work for them, there are some things that do seem to hold true for everyone. Here are my favorite test anxiety tips to make the week a lot less stressful:
Consider the Bigger Picture
Going into a spiral of negative thinking is really easy when you have test anxiety, especially when you put so much pressure on yourself to perform and to deliver.
This negative thinking is tiring and it impairs your ability to study efficiently.
Here’s an example of negative thinking at work: Even when completing practice problems, your mindset is, “If I don’t understand this, I won’t understand on the exam, and then I’ll fail the exam”, and so on.
Therefore, it’s really important to keep the bigger picture in mind.
For some people, this means thinking of the exam as something they won’t even remember in 5 years. For other people, it’s recognizing everything they are grateful for in their life. For me, it’s realizing that no matter how that exam goes, I can look forward to sleeping in my comfy bed and waking up to make my favorite breakfast.
And for you, it can be something else that you’re looking forward to doing that week, that won’t change whether or not you do well on the test. Whatever you choose, it should be something that brings you comfort.
Keep this in mind while you study to help put the exam into perspective.
For some people, prioritizing means doing what is most urgent first. For others, it’s doing what’s overall most important. And for some masochists, it’s doing the hardest things first.
But for me, it’s about doing what I feel like doing at that time.
Doesn’t seem like much of a plan, does it? I’ll explain.
Every morning, I make myself a list of what I need to accomplish that day, the order of which doesn’t matter as long as I’m doing something on the plan.
By doing what you want to do on that list, you’ll actually get started sooner (which is the hardest part), and you’ll quickly get in the study mode and can move into the things you’re least excited to tackle on your to do list.
It’s okay if you don’t finish everything on your list. Trust me, you’ll still feel accomplished, because you were always doing something and that will keep you motivated to do it again the next day.
Break Stuff Down
Thinking about studying for my Accounting exam does not generate feelings of excitement. It is not something I’ll wake up and just do, so it’s easy to push it back.
What I’ve found about setting “studying” as a task is that it’s not really a task. And the idea of it is scarier that what I’ll actually do.
So, before you start studying for any test, try making yourself a list of the specific tasks that are going to get you from here to the midterm. Here’s an example:
- Create a study guide
- Take a practice test
- Review topics I am struggling with
- Redo problems
- Take another practice test
In general, try always keeping it to active studying — reading and watching lectures aren’t as helpful as actually interacting with the material. (And yes, I know I sound like your high school guidance counselor.)
When midterm season comes, the last thing I want to do is carve an hour out of my day to work out. Frankly, the last thing I want to do any day is carve out an hour to workout.
But doctor’s orders, exercising is so important for circulation, de-stressing, something about endorphins, doesn’t matter. What matters is getting some exercise.
You will feel better mentally and you’ll perform better if you exercise during midterm week. So do it. Exercise is a non-negotiable test anxiety tip.
This doesn’t mean you need to run 5 miles, complete a parkour course and then do a yoga video, though!
During midterm season I’ve come to really enjoy going on a morning walk with a friend. It gets you out of the house, is time you can spend socializing, you can get to know your neighborhood, and it’s nothing too strenuous that will tire you out for the rest of the day when you should be studying.
The best part about going for a morning walk is first thing in the day I feel accomplished and more willing to complete more tasks on my list.
When I say mental break, I mean something that gets you to “lights out, nobody’s home.” I want something that shuts my brain completely off and gets studying completely off of my mind.
This can come in literally any shape or form, although I would steer clearing of things like alcohol which shouldn’t be indulged in when you’re stressed. My favorite thing is watching Netflix for an hour. Watching Spencer on iCarly is like therapy for me.
Perhaps for you it’s playing card games, maybe it’s cheffing up a really fancy meal, or maybe it’s painting. For some people it might be another round of exercise.
There really is no one answer. But it should be something that allows you to forget about your midterm and to concentrate purely on what you’re doing.
Trust me, you need mental breaks to allow your brain to process the information you’ve learned. You aren’t cheating. You’re helping yourself and your test anxiety.
Self-care isn’t really a mental break because it is something you need to give yourself. It’s time that you take care of yourself. And prioritizing self care during exam week is my favorite test anxiety tip.
Perhaps self care is using a jade roller every night, or it’s taking a bath, or it’s doing your nails. Maybe it’s doing your makeup or getting all dressed up to study. Again, these things will differ from person to person, so it really is about asking yourself what you need.
I don’t like to think of self care as a reward for studying but something I need to do in order to keep on studying.
More than ever, we should be taking some time for self-care every day, regardless of midterm season. Just make sure you aren’t taking on something too detailed that it stresses you out. The goal is always to make yourself feel better.
What are your favorite test anxiety tips to relax during exam week?
At the end of the day, during exam week and all other weeks, you must remember that you are in control of what you do right now, and what you are doing at every moment.
Take it one test at a time, one task at a time, one problem at a time.
If you’re relaxed, you’ll be able to study better, learn more, be well rested and will end up doing better on the exam — win/win.
What are your go-to test anxiety tips? What’s helped you deal with exam week nerves? How do you exercise during exam week? How do you schedule in self care? Tell me in the comments down below.