Crush the Test: Study Skills and Strategies to Overcome Test Anxiety

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Student applying study skills and strategies to overcome test anxiety

Most students feel some nervousness or anxiety before taking a big test. To a certain extent, these feelings may improve performance because they help students stay focused. However, if these feelings become overwhelming and interfere with taking the test, the student may be suffering from test anxiety.

It’s estimated that 10– 40 percent of school-aged kids suffer from some test anxiety, which has far-reaching effects on their overall learning experience. Test anxiety can hit students at every grade—even those in kindergarten. In addition to potential sleep disruptions and other symptoms that can impact a student’s mental well-being, test anxiety can affect a student’s ability to recall information they know during the test, causing them to fail, which can ultimately lead to additional stress.

The end of the semester can be especially hard on students with test anxiety as high-stakes tests like final exams become a key focus. Students worrying about how much final exams count for in their overall grade or what happens if you fail your final exam are prone to their anxiety taking over, leading to poor performance.

Crush the Test

Test anxiety can be overcome with a little preparation. If you are a student who suffers from test anxiety or a parent looking for ways to help your child, you can learn how to improve test taking skills by first developing good study habits.

Students can also learn test taking tips and strategies on how to be better at test taking to help minimize anxiety. If you still feel anxious or overwhelmed on test day, there are strategies you can learn to help you overcome those anxious feelings and help you crush the test.

Develop Good Study Skills

You probably know that when deciding how to study for final exams, you shouldn’t wait until the night before the big test to sort through your notes. Developing a good study routine will help you be prepared for everything from those high-stakes final exams and college entrance tests to a five-question pop quiz. Here are four study skills to help you prepare for test day:

1. Establish a Consistent Study Schedule

Set aside small chunks of time each day to study. Learning material over time will help you develop a fuller understanding of the concepts and help with recall on test day. Feeling confident in the material will also lessen the feelings of anxiety.

Be sure to study in an environment free from distractions so that you can focus. Build your study schedule around extracurricular activities and add it to your calendar just like all your other important activities and events. Online school students have greater flexibility with their schedule and can build in study time when it is most convenient for them.

A father helps his daughter avoid test anxiety by helping her learn how to study

2. Take Effective Notes

Taking notes can increase your recall of important information. The more organized your notes are, the easier it will be for you to study them. If you aren’t sure how to take effective notes, find things that work for you. Create your own bullet system like using a star for points you’d like to come back to or a smiley face for concepts you’d like your teacher to re-explain. Shorten your notes by using abbreviations and symbols. Paraphrase information. There is something about writing ideas down in your own words that helps reinforce meaning.

3. Take Breaks

The brain is a muscle that needs to be worked—but it also needs breaks! Just like you’d rest your muscles after a hard workout, it’s important to rest your brain throughout your study sessions. Taking brain breaks helps to increase your focus on the material you are studying and helps you learn. Brain breaks could be anything from trying five-minute exercises to enjoying a healthy snack.

4. Form a Study Group

Each student has their own learning style and way of taking notes, which is why it is often good to form a study group to learn from one another. Study groups help you pick up things you may have missed and can help you gain a better understanding of difficult concepts.

Some families of online school students may form virtual or in-person learning pods to bring students together to study. Online school teachers can also connect students from their classes into study groups, which has the added benefit of supporting student socialization.

Students who are traditionally resistant to studying may find studying with a group of friends easier, helping them focus on the material in a way they may struggle with on their own.

Test Taking Tips and Strategies

Understanding good test taking strategies will go a long way in helping you overcome test anxiety.

Ask Questions

Your teachers are there to guide and support you, and they want to see you succeed on test day! If you are unsure about a concept, ask your teacher to explain it further. Teachers can often work one-on-one with you to guide you through difficult lessons to ensure you fully grasp the subject.

You can also ask your teacher about what to expect on the test. Knowing what to expect on the test will help reduce uncertainty that could lead to anxiety.

Take Practice Tests

You’d practice for the big game or opening night, right? That same concept applies to test taking. Taking practice tests is a good way to help you mentally and physically prepare for the real thing. You can find practice SAT and ACT tests online. If you are studying for final exams and feeling anxious, ask your teacher if they have practice tests you can take to help build your confidence—and reduce anxiety—before test day.

A girl takes a practice test to reduce test anxiety

Overcoming Test Anxiety

If you’ve spent weeks studying and practicing your test taking strategies, but are still struggling with overwhelming anxiety, try these tips to help reduce stress and other feelings that may negatively impact you on test day.

Eat Healthy Food and Get Plenty of Sleep

You can’t do your best if you aren’t taking care of yourself! Being tired or hungry can affect your focus and ability to remember information. Only 15 percent of teens report getting the recommended 8–10 hours of sleep they need. As you build your daily schedule, include a reasonable bedtime—and be sure to turn off the electronics at night as they could affect your ability to fall asleep.

Be sure to fuel your body with the right foods, too. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients that keep your body and mind operating at peak performance. Avoid junk food, and snack on things that will boost your energy and keep your mind and body going.

Practice Breathing Exercises

Learn breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to help calm you on test day. Deep breathing helps settle the nerves and can help you focus. Close your eyes and find your center to shut out any distractions that may be happening around you. Learning how to calm yourself will help you when you start to feel overwhelmed.

When to Get Extra Support

If you are struggling with understanding the subject matter and continue to be disappointed in your testing performance, it may be time for a tutor. Connections Academy® offers peer tutoring services to help you understand the lessons you are having difficulty with so you can find success on your next test.

If you aren’t finding success in managing your test anxiety, speak to a school counselor. Every student at Connections Academy has an assigned school counselor to help them work through things that affect their learning journey—including test anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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