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How Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam Anxiety, Part 1 – Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use Before The Test.    The big test is coming up soon. You see many of your friends stressing out. Some are not even studying, and tell you they can cram the night before and "It will all be fine". Others say the test stress is really getting to them and are showing signs of stress and anxiety. How about you? Do you know how to properly study so the test stress is manageable? This article gives you 26 test preparation strategies that are simple, yet powerful, so you stay on track, stay composed, handle the stress and learn the material.    1345 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook

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How Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam Anxiety

Do You Know These 26 Test Success Strategies?

Part One: Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use Before The Test

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

The big test is coming up soon. You see many of your friends stressing out. Some are not even studying, and tell you they can cram the night before and "It will all be fine". Others say the test stress is really getting to them and are showing signs of stress and anxiety. Still others seem to have a system that places it all under control.

How about you? Do you know how to properly study so the test stress is manageable? This article gives you 26 test preparation strategies that are simple, yet powerful, so you stay on track, stay composed, handle the stress and learn the material. Here we go with some immediately useable mental strategies.

  1. Choose Your Best Study Schedule: Even though cramming works for some students, it is a poor strategy for most people. Plan your time management schedule so you can create several shorter study periods rather than a few longer periods. Your mind will be fresher.

  2. Maintain Normalcy: Make sure to keep up with your usual habits of good nutrition and exercise. Continue with your usual recreational pursuits and social activities.

  3. Avoid Cramming: Even though some students use this method, for many students, last-minute all-at-once studying can result in poor retention, stress, guilt at feeling behind, and mental tiredness from lack of sleep.

  4. Know When Your Mind Is Wandering: No one can make their mind focus perfectly for hours on end. Everyone needs a break at some point. The trick is to never allow yourself to continue when you are unfocused. Either refocus correctly, or take a break. That way you are maintaining quality study skills, not just going through the motions.

  5. Know When Enough Is Enough: When you feel you are well prepared for the test, stop and do something relaxing, fun or refreshing.

  6. Have A Confidant: Instead of allowing stress to build up, you want to speak to someone so you can talk it out. Talk to a friend, test coach, psychologist or someone with good listening skills and who cares.

  7. Be Wary of Caffeine: Use caffeine with moderation. The day of the test you may be unusually keyed up. Using caffeine also that day may make you jittery and light-headed.

  8. Take Breaks: Make sure to take planned and unplanned breaks so you remain fresh and concentration flows.

  9. Use Study Aids: Flash cards, color magic markers, post-its and other clever visual aids can help you organize and recall material more easily.

  10. Reward Yourself: Promise yourself a reward yourself after the test. No matter what, if you study hard, you deserve a reward. Besides, you often don't discover your score for some time, so enjoy yourself.

  11. Maintain Good School-Life Balance: You need to ward off stress from life itself, or it will inject itself into your studies, and your test taking. Having friends, a social life, family, hobbies, fitness and health and other arenas takes pressure off you "putting all your eggs into one basket", as they say, so you don't feel as though school and testing is the be-all, end-all part of life. Keep academic pressure in perspective.

  12. Get The Right Attitude About Tests: If you hope to be successful and go very far in life, there will be many, many tests, of all sorts. You might as well get your mind right and accept that fact now, and stop fighting this reality. After all, what is your alternative? To be afraid, to torture yourself and to continually fail? At least accept the reality that you must become a decent test taker. You don't have to be spectacular, just solid.

  13. Monitor Your Thinking For Irrational Statements: If you say to yourself, "This test is Do or Die, and it will make or break my whole career", or, "My whole future is riding on this one test", you are setting yourself up for a pressurized testing situation. These statements are false. Think reasonably and keep things in perspective.

  14. Use A Color Code System On Your Notes And Textbooks: Yellow underlines for first pass, for what to come back to later. Green for items you still don't understand after pass number two. After pass number three or four the final items get marked red for any last-minute reviews. That way you don't re-read everything marked yellow and waste time.

  15. Stay In Your Own World: Do your best to avoid being around people who are agitated, negative and anxious about the test so that does not rub off on you.

  16. Minimize Anticipatory Anxiety. The more you worry prior to the test, the more you cause yourself stress and the more energy you burn up. By the time you get into the test, all that worry can knock you out physically and mentally. You'll feel wiped out and be unable to focus.

  17. Control Only The Controllables: There are many things out of your control in a testing situation. Only focus on those you can control. That would be you, your emotions, your thoughts, your muscles, your breathing and your study plan.

  18. Practice The Performance: Do some run-throughs of the entire testing procedure. Include the clothes you will wear, the type of chair, lighting, table, pen or pencil, actual test questions. Now time it all and see how that feels. When you get to the real test, it will feel much more normal.

  19. Compare Your Positive To Negative Ratio: Stop spending time focusing on the negative consequences of test problems and failing. Instead, focus on what you need to do to succeed.

  20. Gauge Your Level Of Anxiety: If you could not care less about the test, have no anxiety, and you have not prepared well, that is a major trouble sign that you will not perform well. You should have some nerves to signify that you are about to "perform".

  21. Tune Into Your Inner Dialogue: Pay attention to your thoughts just before a test. This is called self talk, and it may reflect the fear and apprehension you feel about not wanting to do poorly on the test. Change these self-defeating thoughts into positive ones.

  22. Set A Goal of Excellence, Not Perfection: If you seek absolute perfection, you will create tension within yourself. Instead, seek excellence and do the best you can. That's all anyone can ask of themselves.

  23. Keep The Test In Perspective: A test is a test. You still have a life after it is done. Your friends and family will still love you, and life will match on. Don't build the test up in your mind any bigger than it really is.

  24. Think Big Picture: You will have hundreds of tests throughout an academic career. No one single test will make you or break you. Find ways to decrease pressure by thinking this way.

  25. Arrive Strategically: Plan ahead on your travel to the test so there is no way you will arrive no later than ten minutes early. You don't want a lot of dead time which may make you nervous, being around nervous students who my distract you.

  26. Go Into The Test Expecting To Do Well: Never count yourself out or expect to fail. This self-defeating attitude will just tend to create that awful reality. Instead be upbeat and happy that you studied hard and gave yourself every opportunity to do well on the test.

Some of these mental approaches to managing test anxiety are common sense, and others are not. The trick is to create your own customized mental training program prior to each test. Remember that your mind is a very powerful tool in combating test stress, and the major tool you want to go to time and again. The formula is: "Change your thoughts, and you change your emotions, and your stress". Now I want you to read the article on handling test anxiety during the test, and the article on how to review and assess your test strategies after the test. Good luck on all your exams!

Knowing about educational psychology and being test savvy is certainly an important part of being a good student, but top students who get consistently high grades also have a knowledge base and applied skills in stress control and peak performance. You need to know how to manage your mind, calm your emotions and relax your body so you can get into the “test zone”, that powerful, deeply focused mind-body state that gives you excellent recall, mental alertness and clarity. You need to learn these skills and become mentally tough so you can handle the extreme pressures of academia. Other mental skills training you need are visualization, confidence-building, mental readiness training and motivation skills.

To learn this set of mental toughness, zone, and stress control skills, sign up for our special Test Anxiety Stress Reduction Program. You can also take this no-cost assessment of your test-taking skills.


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Copyright © 2011- Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com), an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.

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