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How Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam Anxiety, Part 2 – Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use During The Test.    Being test savvy is knowing how to be a good test taker. Those skills transcend studying and content mastery. You can be test savvy if you simply know the test-taking rules and guidelines to follow. Every good student who has ever gone through school has learned them. Here are 23 test success strategies you can use during the test itself. Students who do consistently well are the ones who understand how to be test savvy. This means they know specifically how tests should be managed from a strategic standpoint.    1052 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook



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How Educational Psychology Can Help With Exam Anxiety

Do You Know These 23 Test Success Strategies?

Part Two: Anxiety Reduction Strategies For Use During The Test



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



It's not enough to go to class, listen well, take good notes, study smart, study hard and do everything within your power to prepare for the test. Once in the test, it's a whole other ball game. Now you need to know how that game is played. Speaking as a long-time educator who constructed many tests and assessments, I always wanted my tests to be challenging, but fair for my students, and I also wanted them to do well. But the only students who really did consistently well were the ones who understood how to be test savvy. That meant they knew specifically how tests should be managed from a strategic standpoint.

You can be test savvy if you simply know the rules and guidelines to follow. Every good student who has ever gone through school has learned them. They really are fairly simple. Here are 23 test success strategies you can use during the test itself.

  1. Glance Over The Entire Test First: You want to know what is there so you can make a plan, and not be surprised. Don't read every question, just get a feel for what is there.

  2. Read The Instructions Carefully: Perhaps more mistakes are made from students failing to correctly read or understand test directions than from any other reason. Read these carefully, probably twice to make sure you are clear about what they are asking.

  3. Ask If You Don't Know: Anytime you have the slightest question about test procedures, ask the proctor. Don't be shy.

  4. Note The Point Value Of Questions: This tells you how to plan your time. Not all questions are worth the same effort or time. Be strategic.

  5. Time And Prioritize The Test: Figure out how much time you will allot to each test section, and in what order you will complete them.

  6. Start Where It Helps You Most: If you like to tackle the most challenging questions to get them out of the way, fine, but be aware that your time may get away from you. It may be better to go after the easier questions to answer them faster, so you create momentum. You also get a boost of confidence, and may unlock more of your mental powers once you set flow in motion.

  7. Determine If There Are Penalties For Guessing: These should be in the instructions. If not, ask the teacher or test proctor.

  8. Underline All Significant Words In The Directions: To be absolutely crystal clear on what they say, read the key words in the directions.

  9. Create Test Momentum: By answering the questions you know well first, you build your confidence and create traction and momentum.

  10. Come Back To Troubling Questions: You do not need to answer all questions in serial order. Come back to those that you can't readily complete.

  11. Never Rush The Test: Some students rush from being overconfident, thinking the test is a snap. This causes carelessness and errors. Others rush from despair, fear and simply give up. They just want to get it over with and escape their pain. Take your time and be methodological.

  12. Don't Get Hung Up On Stumpers: There may be tough questions that you can't answer right away. Don't sink all your time into these. They will derail you and ruin your time plan, and also create doubt in you. Build your confidence by completing the questions you know first and best.

  13. Create A Summary Statement For Essay Questions: Read the essay question and determine exactly what they are asking. Create a short two or three sentence summary paragraph that will guide the writing of the rest of your answer.

  14. Be Smart On Multiple-Choice Questions: Read the question and eliminate the obviously incorrect answers. Then watch for tricky qualifying words such as "only," "always," or "most." They are generally incorrect also. If you are still unsure, mark a tentative answer to the side, and come back to it later.

  15. Trust Your First Instincts: Generally, your first instinct on an answer is best. You can drive yourself crazy (and lose valuable time) overanalyzing a question. Doing this also creates doubt about your abilities and slows momentum.

  16. Remember That You Do Not Get Points For Extra Effort: If you spend lots of time on one question, you don't get extra points. The teacher will never know. Spend just the correct amount of time on each item that will produce the best answer.

  17. Read What The Question Says, Not What You Think It Says: Read carefully so you discern what is actually being asked. Be careful when reading double negatives, or the word "not".

  18. Be Specific About Essay Directions: Be very careful to see exactly for what they are asking. Do they want you to compare? To contrast? To define? To enumerate? To justify? To list? To explain? To give a time line?

  19. Maintain Body Awareness: Don't let tension creep up on you. Monitor your muscles as you go to keep tense muscles relaxed.

  20. Ignore Irrelevant Thoughts: Do not think ahead to the outcome of the test and what that means. Avoid thinking of comparing yourself to your peers, or what anyone may say about your performance in the test.

  21. Be Mentally Tough To Avoid Panic: You must tell yourself that if you panic, it won't help. You have no choice but to remain calm, dig deep to find your will to win and keep going.

  22. Use Worksheets And Test Margins To Compute and Organize: Before you mark your final answer, or write the essay, make outlines and notes so your mind is clear on what you want to say and do.

  23. Save Time For Review: You must plan ahead for extra time at the end of the test period for reviewing your answers, making sure you have left no blanks, polishing any essays questions and erasing any ambiguous notes or answers.

If you monitor your stress on multiple levels-physical, emotional and mental, and follow the test-taking strategies good students know, you should have no problems doing very well on your exams. Read this list over often so you have these strategies in your mind when you need them. The other two articles in this series deal with handling test anxiety before the test and how to review and assess your test strategies after the test. Good luck on your next exam!


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 or contact me for a complimentary review 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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