According to Dr. Jeffrey Lazarus, 40-60% of students have test anxiety. Tests with results that lead to career opportunities such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, ASP and CSP often increase this anxiety to seeming paralysis.
What can you do about it? Begin by realizing it’s normal. Here are six ways to succeed on exam day.
1. Prepare well: Foundational to reducing anxiety is being well prepared. Know the reference material, how many questions are on the test, the test duration, the question format (essay, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc.), and the testing environment.
I learned this when I prepared for a multiple-choice test and instead found it was essay only. Poor preparation!
2. Test when you study: If you study in the morning, test in the morning. Same goes for the afternoon. Your brain is used to this subject at a certain time and you can leverage this by testing when it’s ready for the material.
I always study in the mornings and test in the mornings.
3. Know your tactics: You train for a race before the race. So predetermine your testing strategy too. How will you guess on questions? Will you skip those you don’t know, persist through, or flag them for later?
Personally, I guess often, never skip, and rarely use flags. Find what works for you.
4. Short bursts are better: Being prepared means better studying. And better studying does not mean cramming and marathon study sessions. Brains retain and focus best when studying in short bursts. So study for 20-40 minutes and take a break.
What works for me? I study for 20 minutes and take a 10 minute break, then repeat 2-4 times.
5. Practice where you test: Does your exam offer practice tests? Take several. Also, find out as much about the testing center as possible. Take a practice test there if possible (quite often testing centers offer many different tests so take one just to get the feel of the room and the environment.)
To practice, I took 30 CLEP tests in 6 months. It was an immunization, of sorts, to test anxiety.
6. Know it’s coming: You will feel anxiety. So breathe. There will be questions you don’t know. There will be limited time. And it will be alright. Remember to breathe (again), remind yourself how much you’ve prepared, and know that others have done this (successfully) before.
And if you simply want to remember more, read “Ultimate Memory” by Kevin Horsely to learn how to remember anything and concentrate at will. It’s available free on Kindle Unlimited.