The pressure to perform well on tests is experienced by a wide range of people, students and professionals. Getting in to good colleges, prestigious graduate schools, top professional schools and obtaining licensure and earning a good living can, sometimes, be directly related to a person's ability to get good scores on demanding exams.
In today's highly competitive world, the following kinds of standardized tests can create nervousness, anxiety, fear, and in some cases, panic in test takers: SAT, LSAT, PSAT, ACT, MCAT, Series 7 License Exam, Law Boards, Medical Boards, CPA Exam GMAT, Miller Analogy Test and GRE.
Some people report symptoms of test anxiety when they have to pass a driving test, a driving test, a lifeguarding exam, an athletic test, a test to get a belt in the martial arts, a final exam, a quiz or a midterm exam.
There are a number of things that can be done to lower test anxiety.
1. Take enough practice exams to get familiar with the material and the structure of the exam questions.
2. Be sure that your practice scores are allowing you to pass the exam or score where you need to score. If you are not scoring what you need to score, take a course or work with a tutor who knows the exam you are getting ready to take. It makes no sense to take an test if you are not scoring well in practice exams.
3. Develop a routine prior to the exam which allows you to get mentally and physically ready. Pay attention to getting a good night's sleep, the right nutrition and a pre-test routine which helps you to be calm, confident and focused.
4. Never look at a test as a "life or death" situation.
5. In most instances, you can retake an exam another time if you need to.
6. Develop a curiosity about the exam and try to look upon it as a challenge. This may be hard for many anxious test takers, but this can be a useful mental state from which you can tackle exam questions.
7. Some tests have time pressure. During practice exams, try to finish the test with time remaining. Doing this will help you to feel that you have extra time on test day.
8. Bring as much positive thinking and positive energy to the exam room as is possible. Use an affirmation like this one. "I will do better and better with every question I face on this test."
9. Use the same kinds of mental toughness, sport psychology and focusing techniques that top athletes use to perform well when they are under pressure.
10. Get training in meditation, visualization, self-hypnosis and use these tools to get your mind into the right mental gear to perform well on your test.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and author. He writes a weekly self-help column for five newspapers and has been featured in major media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America. To get his test anxiety program or to get
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