Taming Your Test Anxiety (PowerPoint)
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Taming Your TEST ANXIETY
Western Washington University Counseling Center
PDF handouts to accompany this powerpoint:
Taming Your Test Anxiety Test and Study Strategies Relaxation Strategies
Do you have test anxiety?
Does your anxiety interfere with your performance? When you take a test, are you distracted with worry or with physical symptoms? Does your mind go blank when you are taking tests? Does your anxiety seem out of proportion to the testing situation?
Some anxiety (or emotional arousal) actually improves performance. The middle area of this chart is what athletes call “The Zone”. Even a small decrease in test anxiety can help improve performance.
What can I do about Test Anxiety?
You can optimize your learning and testtaking skills. You can learn cognitive strategies to get yourself into the “zone” for optimal performance. You can train your body to relax so that your mind can focus.
Making Study Count
Efficient Memory Strategies
PREVIEW the reading before class. GO TO CLASS. NON-NEGOTIABLE! REVIEW after class. Unless lecture notes are reviewed, most people forget up to 80% of the lecture within 24 hours. As soon as possible, review your notes. Actively process information. Anticipate possible test questions.
Active Learning Uses the Whole Brain Engage the Whole Brain with Visual memory Auditory memory Kinesthetic memory Conceptual memory
Where can you find… Tips for Time Management Free Tutoring for Study Skills and Math Information on Learning Styles Note-taking Strategies Test-taking Tools
THE TUTORING CENTER: Wilson Library 280 http://www.wwu.edu/tutoring/
The Physical Zone
Keep your body and brain healthy and fit with
Adequate Sleep Proper Diet Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, & recreational drugs Exercise
Use a regular RELAXATION strategy to release daily stress and tension.
The Mental Zone
Our internal thoughts and perspectives also affect emotions and stress levels. When you take a test, is your FOCUS on yourself and your anxiety, or on the job at hand?
Anxiety is like a fire alarm… Easy to trigger, hard to ignore.
The Fight or Flight Response
The Fight or Flight Response Takes Over When The Brain Receives a “Danger Signal”
The body responds with increased heart rate and breathing, the blood flows away from the brain, the digestive system, and the extremities to pour energy into the major muscles in our arms and legs so we can react quickly. Very adaptive if a bear is charging or the room is on fire, but not very adaptive if the brain and body are acting as if the TEST is trying to kill you. If you have DANGER thoughts while you are taking the test, the fire alarm goes on and the fight or flight response is activated.
What if I flunk the test? I can’t remember anything! I’m so stupid. I don’t know this! What if I flunk the class? I didn’t study enough! This isn’t fair! I don’tWhat haveifenough I’m going to do terrible! I flunk time! the test? My parents will be madWhat if I get bad grade! It’s hopeless! Just give up! if Iaflunk the class? What’s wrong with me? What will myanything! professor think? I’m a failure. I can’t remember I hate this! I should know I’m this!so stupid. Everyone else is doing better. What if I flunk out of school? I can’t it! This will ruin my life! I don’t knowdo this! I didn’t study enough! This isn’t fair! I don’t have enough time! I’m going to do terrible! My parents will be mad if I get a bad grade! It’s hopeless! I can’t do it! Just give up! What’s wrong with me? What will my professor think? I’m a failure. I hate this! I should know this! Everyone else is doing better. What if I flunk out of school? This will ruin my life!
What are Your Danger Thoughts?
Turn off the Fire Alarm by replacing DANGER thoughts with SAFETY thoughts.
SAFETY THOUGHTS I’ll start with something I know. It’s just one test. I know this material. Even if I feel shaky, I can still do my best. One step at a time. Keep going. Focus on here and now. I’ll do the best I can. Let’s figure this out. I’ve already studied and it is what it is. Just focus on now and do the test. Whatever happens, I’ll deal with it. I’m anxious but I can manage. I can do this. I accept that I feel anxious and my heart is pounding—it’s just adrenaline. It is helping my brain focus.
Write Your Own Safety Thoughts
Practice your safety thoughts by using mental imagery to imagine yourself in a testing situation.
Brain Power Wipe out anxious worries when you study—don’t connect them with the material you are learning! Set aside a separate time to problemsolve your academic worries and focus on things which are under your control.
The “DUMP” Strategy
Shortly before the exam, write non-stop for ten minutes about all your thoughts and feelings regarding the test. Students with test anxiety did better when they dumped their worries by writing! Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom Gerardo Ramirez and Sian L. Beilock article in SCIENCE magazine, January 14, 2011
Taking the plunge—Tips for Tests
Test-Taking Strategies Take a long deep breath, and focus on the TEST. Work on the easier parts first. Read directions twice. Tune out distractions—don’t watch the clock and don’t watch other students. Expect to see questions you don’t know or don’t recognize. If you have danger thoughts or get distracted by worry, imagine a “mental squeegee” that clears them out. Remember your “safety thoughts” for positive self-talk. Use patterned breathing (in 4 counts, hold 4 counts, out 8 counts) to release physical stress.
Multiple Choice and True-False
Multiple choice -Read the question carefully. Read all responses and eliminate the most obvious wrong answers. -When in doubt, go with your first impression. -Mark questions you don’t know and go on. -If you guess, look for two answers which are similar and pick one. True-False -Read carefully but don’t invest a lot of time on a 2 point question. -Look for qualifiers (“Always” and “never” generally indicate a false statement. Qualifiers like “sometimes”, “often” or “generally” are more likely to be true.)
-Circle or underline the negatives. -Remember-if any part of a sentence is false, the whole sentence is false.
Math or Science problems -Start with something familiar to build confidence. -Look for familiar patterns. -When studying, use flashcards to help recognize types of problems and steps to their solution. -Mix up flashcards and problem sets to test yourself. -Circle or highlight negative signs. -For word problems, draw pictures, identify the relevant formula, and make sure you know what is asked for in the problem. -When possible, double check your calculations.
Essay and Short Answer Tests
Essay -Read the question carefully and look for key words like “compare”, “contrast” or “define”. -Make a quick outline. -Get to the point. Start with a summary statement. -Write legibly in pen. Short Answer -Study off summary sheets or flash cards packed with information. -Answer every required question—try a common-sense guess using what you know. -Write simple, information-packed responses.
Is it More than Test Anxiety?
Do you experience persistent fear or panic in a number of social or performance situations? Have you been plagued for months by excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, tension, intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating, or insomnia? Do you experience depression or mood fluctuations which interfere with day-to-day functioning in and out of school? Have you struggled for most of your life with concentration difficulties, distractibility, forgetfulness & disorganization?
Counseling might help—call for an initial appointment!
Summarizing Your Goals Establish effective and consistent study habits. Use a variety of learning modalities. Mentally practice self-supporting thoughts. Keep your focus on the test, not on your performance. Practice a relaxation technique. Maintain healthy habits to minimize effects of daily stress. Dump your worries before the test. Use each test as a learning opportunity. Congratulations! You are on your way!
Western Washington University
Relaxation and Mindfulness Groups are offered regularly—check our website for more information.