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There is help for test anxiety

We worry, battle butterflies and sometimes sweat. Sometimes our mind goes blank at the worst possible moment – just when the professor is passing out that test we’ve been dreading.

Even the most prepared student can suffer from test anxiety. But what most students don’t know, says Jill Nardin, a counselor at the TCC Women’s Center on the Portsmouth Campus, is that test anxiety is a learned behavior.

That’s good news, says Nardin, given we have the power to change our behavior. Nardin offers these tips in her recent seminar “School Survival Skills: Overcoming Text Anxiety” for students stressed by upcoming exams:

Give yourself adequate time to arrive to the test. Running in late creates unnecessary anxiety.

Avoid distractions, and give your mind a chance to switch gears. Begin thinking about the test prior to it, “and get in test-taking mode,” Nardin says.

Good nutrition and a good night’s sleep the night before can help. Have a snack prior to the test. “Food makes your brain work,” Nardin says.

Read the directions, something students often overlook in their haste.

Write down information you’re afraid to forget as soon as you receive the exam.

Answer the easiest questions first, as sometimes that will trigger thoughts to help you with those answers you’re not as sure of.

Don’t worry when others finish. Take your time. “Don’t panic when students hand in their papers before you,” Nardin says. “It’s not a race.”

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, help. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to calm yourself down.

Positive self talk builds confidence. We often tell ourselves we’re not ready or we can’t do something. Nardin suggests picturing an actual stop sign and recalling that imagery when negative emotions invade. Practice using your stop sign in your mind prior to the test. “Make it part of your preparation,” Nardin says.

Review your answers, but don’t second guess yourself.

If you need additional help, resources are available at the Women’s Center and the Learning Assistance Center on each campus.

And remember, Nardin advises, “Test anxiety is what it is. It doesn’t have to stay there. You can’t do better than your best.”