With an important exam on the horizon, it is completely normal to feel some test anxiety. However, we have some great tips on how to reduce test anxiety and study effectively while you prepare to take the exam.
Tip 1: Study a little bit every day.
It can be difficult to prioritize test preparation in the midst of school and extracurriculars. However, studying for 30-45 minutes each day can have significant benefits to your performance on test day. Research has shown that habit formation and doing something every day, even for just a small amount of time, is one of the best ways to reach long-term goals.
Tip 2: Make a study plan.
The key to a good study plan is to know exactly what to practice. The jumping-off point of test preparation, no matter how soon your test day is, is to take a full-length practice test. Completing a practice test will inform you of the specific topics you need to study. The Test Innovators system creates an individualized study plan for you based on the results of your practice test, so you know exactly which areas to focus on.
Tip 3: Find your accountability buddy.
Consistent check-ins with a responsible student, adult, or older sibling can be immensely helpful in reaching your study goals. Check-ins are beneficial because your study buddy can make sure you’re sticking to your goals and boost your confidence along the way. A helpful study strategy is to explain what you are learning to your accountability buddy. Explaining what you are learning will help you master the concept and feel confident.
Tip 4: Don’t cram.
Cramming refers to the method of studying whereby a student studies intensely for a long period of time during the final days before the test. In pedagogical research, there is consistent evidence that spacing out studying is more effective than studying in large, rushed chunks of time. This spacing effect allows the brain to ingest and retain the information more effectively than cramming and produces better results on test day.
What you should do instead: Follow tips 1 and 2 to avoid getting into a situation where you have to cram right before the test. With schoolwork and extracurriculars, it can be challenging to find the time to study after a long day, but it will be worth it on test day!
Tip 5: Avoid multitasking.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m a great multitasker!”? Well, the science says that no matter how adept you may think you are at multitasking, humans are inherently bad at it. The term multitasking is erroneously conflated with the idea that your brain is getting multiple things done at once, when in reality, your brain is rapidly shifting from one task to another, ultimately decreasing your productivity. This is due to the switching costs of changing from one task to the other, where energy and productivity fall through the cracks. For example, if you’re trying to complete some verbal practice exercises and learn new test-taking skills, do one first and then the other. If you’re attempting to read this article and study at the same time, get back to studying!
What you should do instead: Focus on one topic or question type at a time and minimize any distractions. Turn your phone off or put it in another room, reduce any unnecessary noise such as the T.V. and music, and only eat during your breaks. If you’re working on your computer, close any tabs or applications that are not related to the task at hand. Make a clear and precise list of tasks and complete them fully, one after the other—your brain will thank you.
Tip 6: Take breaks.
Taking short, frequent breaks during studying can help you retain information and boost productivity. If you’re studying for two hours, take 15 minutes to stand up, stretch, and give your brain a break. Check out some of our exercises to reduce test anxiety that rejuvenate the brain during a lengthy study session.
Tip 7: Take care of yourself.
Eating right, exercising daily, and practicing good sleep habits have tremendous impacts on your body and brain. Foods rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and protein boost brain performance. Nutrient-rich foods, such as fish, avocado, nuts, blueberries, broccoli, and dark chocolate can help increase concentration and improve memory, which are both essential brain functions on school entrance exams. Daily exercise can reduce stress and increase focus and brain functioning. A consistent sleep schedule provides your body and brain with the necessary energy for top performance.
While it is always important to get good sleep, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet, it is especially important the week before the test and on test day. Ensuring that you get good sleep the week leading up to the test will give your body and brain the energy it needs on test day. Exercising the day before the test can help alleviate test-day jitters and help you sleep better. On test day, make sure to eat a nutrient-rich breakfast and bring a healthy snack with you, so you can fuel your body and brain.
When preparing for your upcoming exam, keep these tips in mind. Creating a focused study plan, practicing consistently, and building healthy habits will help you improve, gain confidence, and reduce test anxiety.