You showed up to class every day. You took lengthy notes and studied for hours. You go to take the test and suddenly, your body tenses, your mind goes blank, and you can’t bring yourself to answer a single question. If you can relate to this then you are probably struggling with test anxiety and you aren’t alone. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 16% to 20% of students experience severe test anxiety. While having test anxiety can be disruptive to your academic life, there are a few study hacks you can use that will help you ease your anxiety on the day of the big test.
1.Start off with meditation
To put test anxiety in its place, start off each study session with five minutes of meditation. Practice breathing in and out slowly and purposefully. Then envision your test anxiety melting away and being replaced by calmness. If you need more help meditating, check to see if your college provides meditation workshops or wellness activities on campus. Once you are able to clear your mind with the help of meditation, you will be able to better focus on your study material. Also, repeatedly engaging in meditation helps diffuse anxiety and improve focus in the long run. So, the more you practice calming yourself down, the calmer you will be over all, including right before the big test. (Journal of Mindfulness)
2. Take naps
This study hack seems counterintuitive as we are taught that productive study sessions involve long grueling hours or caffeine-fueled all-nighters. But your brain will retain the information you learned if you stop to take a power nap after an hour or two of studying. Napping allows the brain to take a break and to properly store the information you just studied. Even if you can’t fall asleep in the middle of the day, letting your mind power down after learning new information can still be beneficial. This will help your test anxiety if you know that you are giving your brain the rest it needs to remember all the important information you need for the test. (psychcentral)
3. Keep it at 72 degrees
When you’re in the middle of a study session, you probably aren’t focused on the temperature in the room. But room temperature has been proven to have a significant affect on the test results of students. Researchers have found that 72 degrees is the most effective temperature for your brain to function. Keep your home’s thermostat set at 72 degrees while you are studying. When you’re studying outside of your home, try to pick an area where you aren’t feeling too cold or too hot. Also, be sure to dress in layers the day of the test. If the room is too cold, it might cause your muscles to constrict in an effort to warm your body up. That feeling of tensing up can trigger test anxiety to get even worse. You can prevent that from happening if you bring a warm sweater or jacket with you just in case. (Scranton University)
4. Use the right lights
Keeping the lights on might not seem like a study hack but lighting has a bigger affect on our brains than we might think. Studying in a room that is too dark will make you feel drowsy and strain your eyes. Avoid studying with just a desk lamp on. Light up the whole room if you’re going to have a study session at night. Also, be aware of the effects that blue light has on our brains. Blue light can be found in most electronics as well as florescent lights. This wavelength of light keeps our brains stimulated. But if you’re exposed to too much blue light especially at night, you may struggle to get to sleep. If you plan on studying with a laptop or tablet, or under florescent lights, try to finish up an hour before you plan on sleeping. This will give your brain time to calm down from being stimulated by the blue light. Also, lack of sleep can trigger anxiety, so be sure to avoid blue light the night before the test. (Western Governors University)
5. Use your olfactory senses
This study hack is well-known but most students neglect to use it to their advantage. Your olfactory senses (taste and smell) are the strongest senses tied to memory. During your study sessions, chew gum or spray yourself with your favorite perfume or cologne. Then, on the day of the test, wear the same scent or chew the same flavor of gum and it will help your brain recall the information you learned while studying. (Penn State)
6. Create a story around it
Our brains are programmed for storytelling because stories help us make sense of the world around us. During a study session, it would be more beneficial to make up a fun story about the test subject than to just reread the same facts over and over again. Stories create a framework that makes it easier for your brain to recall. Also, stories add in human emotion which makes the material more relatable. For example, take the Broadway hit show, Hamilton. The creators of the show turned the dates and facts about the Founding Fathers into a fun musical with catchy hip-hop songs. This makes learning about history much more enjoyable because people are learning about it from a musical, not a boring textbook. The easier it is to recall test material, the lesser your test anxiety will be. (The Guardian)
7. Move around
This study hack is based on the fact that our bodies and our brains crave movement. If your study sessions involve sitting for hours on end, you could be hurting your brain’s potential. Our brains are the most alert and receptive to new information when we are being active. After sitting for more than a half an hour, our brains’ activity decreases dramatically. If you want to study better, get up every half an hour and walk around. Even better, consider switching up your location. Maybe you can move to a different table at the library or find a café nearby. This will keep your brain from becoming too lethargic to remember the information you need to pass the test. (NPR)
8. Do a practice test
The best study hack for beating test anxiety is to face your fears. If you’re being haunted by test anxiety day and night, it’s time to take a practice test. Create flashcards and ask a friend to quiz you. To make this even more effective, go to the location where the test will take place. This will help you get used to the environment as well as trick your brain into remembering what you learned during your practice test when the real test comes around. (Journal of Experimental Psychology)
These tips should help you study better and feel more confident when test taking. If you notice your test anxiety is getting worse and affecting other areas of your life, don’t hesitate to get help. If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
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