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Stress Tests: How to Manage Test Anxiety at School


    School is stressful. When you aren’t juggling five different written assignments, you’re preparing an oral presentation in front of a classroom of watchful eyes. When you aren’t meeting for a group project, you’re trying to fit in with a social group of peers. 

    Test Anxiety at School

    Then, you add tests to the mix. Tests are perhaps the most acutely stressful part of education – they're time-based, tough and worth a disproportionately large part of your marks. It’s normal to feel some stress in the face of a looming test. 

    But if you feel too much stress, you can actually harm rather than help your chances at a good outcome. Whether you’re an in-class college student in BC or earning your Ontario high school diploma online, these universal tips should help you kick that all-too-common exam anxiety. 

    Leave Ample Preparation Time with Effective Time Management

    Your first line of defence against test stress is effective time management. Often, students fall into cycles of cramming for an exam, leaving little time to digest or retain the material. Not only is this method ineffective, but it leaves your brain burned out by the time test day arrives. 

    Instead, create a long-term preparedness schedule. In the month leading up to the test, create a regimented schedule for reviewing and re-reviewing material. By the time you roll up to the test, you will have mastered the material and preserved your mental energy for the sprint ahead. 

    Practice Breathing Techniques

    “Just breathe” is a cliched response to stress, but it has a scientific leg to stand on. Studies show that focusing on deep breathing can quickly regulate your stress response, bringing you back down to earth. 

    Before your test date, practice a few breathing techniques – which you can find here. If you find yourself panicking during a test, return to these practices. Set your test aside for a minute (you can afford to lose a minute) and focus on breathing. 

    Get Consistent Sleep, Activity and Hydration

    The sleep-deprived brain is irritable, unfocused and prone to panic – undesirable qualities for a test-taker! At least a week before your exam, ensure you get a consistent 8 to 10 hours of sleep. 

    And while you’re considering your physical health, remember to incorporate physical activity and hydration, both of which positively contribute to peak cognitive functioning. On the morning of the test, take a walk or run. And remember to pack a water bottle for the test period.

    Stay Informed about Essential Details

    Picture this: it’s minutes before a final exam, and you’re scrambling to find the room or URL to enter. What does this do to you? It spikes your heart rate, triggers your fight-or-flight impulse and sends a dizzying rush of cortisol (the stress hormone) throughout your body. By the time you sit down to start the test, you’re already swimming upstream. 

    Instead, stay informed about the test’s essential details. Where is it? When is it? How long is it? What do you need to bring? And what are the rules surrounding "open books," etc? Knowing these critical details in advance will save you some last-minute stress. 

    Don’t let stress get between you and a great grade. Follow these simple steps to skate through your tests without any sweat or tears. 

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