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Overcoming Test Anxiety – An Innovative and Solution Focused Coaching Program

At the present time, I am excited to offer a special coaching program focused onovercoming standardized test anxiety. Test anxiety involves a combination of physiological over-arousal, worry, and dread about test performance, and avoidance of effective preparation which often interferes with normal learning and lowers test performance. Test anxiety can result in extreme stress, anxiety, and discomfort during and/or before taking a test. If you are faced with taking a test or standardized exam and are prone to test anxiety or intense nervousness, I can help. I offer an individualized program based in the New Canaan, CT office for students on how to conquer test anxiety and perform to the best of your abilities. This is not a test prep course. We do not teach you how to pick the best answer on a multiple choice test, or what kind of material you should study. Instead, this program focuses on conquering the emotional component of test anxiety which often interferes with effective performance. Please contact me for more details about this special coaching option.

Your teenager went to class, completed homework, and studied. He or she arrived at the exam confident about the material. But if he or she has test anxiety, a type of performance anxiety, taking the test is the most difficult part of the equation.

Causes

  • Fear of failure. While the pressure to perform can act as a motivator, it can also be devastating to individuals who tie their self-worth to the outcome of a test.
  • Lack of preparation. Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can leave individuals feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
  • Poor test history. Previous problems or bad experiences with test-taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests.

Symptoms

  • Physical symptoms. Headache, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint can all occur. Test anxiety can lead to a panic attack, which is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.
  • Emotional symptoms. Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.
  • Behavioral/Cognitive symptoms. Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.

Generally, we all experience some level of nervousness or tension before tests or other important events in our lives. A little nervousness can actually help motivate us; however, too much of it can become a problem – especially if it interferes with our ability to prepare for and perform on tests.

Dealing with Anxiety

The first step is to distinguish between two types of anxiety. If your anxiety is a direct result of lack of preparation, consider it a normal, rational reaction. However, if you are adequately prepared but still panic, “blank out”, and/or overreact, your reaction is not rational. While both of these anxieties may be considered normal (anyone can have them) it is certainly helpful to know how to overcome their effects.

Changing Your Attitude

Improving your perspective of the test-taking experience can actually help you enjoy studying and may improve your performance. Don’t overplay the importance of the grade – it is not a reflection of your self-worth nor does it predict your future success. Try the following:

  • Remember that the most reasonable expectation is to try to show as much of what you know as you can.
  • Remind yourself that a test is only a test – there will be others.
  • Avoid thinking of yourself in irrational, all-or-nothing terms.
  • Reward yourself after the test – take in a movie, go out to eat, or visit with friends.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Students preparing for tests often neglect basic biological, emotional, and social needs. To do your best, you must attend to these needs. Think of yourself as a total person – not just a test taker. Remember to:

  • Continue the habits of good nutrition and exercise. Continue your recreational pursuits and social activities – all contribute to your emotional and physical well-being.
  • Follow a moderate pace when studying; vary your work when possible and take breaks when needed.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before the test – when you are overly tired you will not function at your absolute best.
  • Once you feel you are adequately prepared for the test, do something relaxing.

The Day of the Test

To be able to do your best on the day of the test we suggest the following:

  • Begin your day with a moderate breakfast and avoid coffee if you are prone to “caffeine jitters.” Even people who usually manage caffeine well may feel light-headed and jittery when indulging on the day of a test.
  • Try to do something relaxing the hour before the test – last minute cramming will cloud your mastering of the overall concepts of the course.
  • Plan to arrive at the test location early – this will allow you to relax and to select a seat located away from doors, windows, and other distractions.
  • Avoid classmates who generate anxiety and tend to upset your stability.
  • If waiting for the test to begin causes anxiety, distract yourself by reading a magazine or newspaper.

During the Test: Anxiety Control

Curb excess anxiety in any of the following ways:

  • Tell yourself “I can be anxious later, now is the time to take the exam.”
  • Focus on answering the question, not on your grade or others’ performances.
  • Counter negative thoughts with other, more valid thoughts like, “I don’t have to be perfect.”
  • Tense and relax muscles throughout your body; take a couple of slow deep breaths and try to maintain a positive attitude.
  • Think for a moment about the post-exam reward you promised yourself.

After the Test

Whether you did well or not, be sure to follow through on the reward you promised yourself – and enjoy it! Try not to dwell on all the mistakes you might have made. Do not immediately begin studying for the next test. . . indulge in something relaxing for a little while.

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