Timely tips for dealing with test anxiety

A hundred cartloads of anxiety will not pay an ounce of debt.
-Italian proverb

Students across the country are in the throes of final exam preparation, test taking, and, soon, we hope, end-of-semester jubilation! We wish all of you, and in particular, those who are soon to be members of our profession, good health and good luck on the exams.

The Honors Program at the University of California at Riverside has put together these suggestions for getting through finals week, but the tips are useful for any type of test situation. Try putting these ideas to work for you and let us know how you fare! If you have any of your own favorite tips to add to this list, please add a comment at the bottom of this article.

Before the test:

  • Be prepared!

  • Learn your material thoroughly.

  • A program of exercise is said to sharpen the mind.

  • Get a good night's sleep the night before the exam.

  • Approach the exam with confidence: View the exam as an opportunity to show how much you've studied and to receive a reward for the studying you've done.

  • Don't go to the exam with an empty stomach.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress. Stressful foods can include processed foods, artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, sugar, white flour products, chips and similar snack foods, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices.

  • Take a small snack, or some other nourishment to help take your mind off of your anxiety. Avoid high sugar content (candy), which may aggravate your condition.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time, especially to do things you need to do before the test and still get there a little early.

  • Relax just before the exam.

  • Don't try to do a last minute review.

    During the test:

  • Read the directions carefully.

  • Budget your test taking time.

  • Change positions to help you relax.

  • If you go blank, skip the question and go on.

  • If you're taking an essay test and you go blank on the whole test, pick a question and start writing. It may trigger the answer in your mind.

  • Don't panic when students start handing in their papers. There's no reward for being the first done.

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