Handling Test Anxiety Part I – How to Think about Anxiety

 

Most students have at least a little anxiety around standardized tests. Many of them feel like their anxiety is a problem and they need to get rid of it. But the truth is there’s nothing wrong with feeling anxious. I’ve tutored for standardized tests for over 20 years, and I’ve had a lot of anxious students ace their exams. The key was their mindset. Below are three important beliefs that my successful students used to handle their anxiety and excel on their standardized tests.

Anxious people can succeed
The world is full of anxious, successful people: Oprah Winfrey, Adele, Ryan Reynolds, various all-star athletes, novelists, actors, etc. etc. Sian Beilock, a research scientist who’s now the President of Barnard College, did a study on anxiety and performance. In it, she found that the people who thrive under pressure and the people who choke under pressure have the exact same stress levels. The only difference was in how they viewed their anxiety. The people who thrived looked at it as energy, as proof they could succeed.

Don’t try to get rid of anxiety
Your goal shouldn’t be to get rid of anxiety. It’s unrealistic. You’re a human, not a robot. You’re taking an important test, and you get to be anxious, just like almost everyone else on the planet.

Accept it
If you ignore your anxiety, it will only grow more insistent, like a child pulling on your sleeve for attention. In fact, most of anxiety’s power comes from our attempts to deny it, which works about as well as shaking up a bottle of soda and trying to cover the top with your hand. Accept that you’re anxious and that that’s ok. Anxiety isn’t the issue; preoccupation with anxiety is the issue. Once you accept that you’re anxious, the preoccupation goes away, and you can focus on your exam.

You don’t need to be anxiety-free to succeed on a standardized test. It’s actually better to be a little nervous. Just accept your anxiety and know you can succeed, and you’ll be in great shape for your exam.

To your success!

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