If you’re the type of person who gets flustered and confused when you’re under pressure, quizzes, tests, and exams probably aren’t your idea of a good time. But if you’re a new college student or a soon-to-be freshman, you should be aware the test-taking stakes are about to get higher than ever before – college tests are often known for being notoriously difficult, and your test scores often comprise a majority of your overall grade in each class.
The good news is that test-taking is just another skill – and just like riding a bike or learning how to drive, you can improve your test-taking abilities with some preparation and practice. Here are a few tips from the experts to help you overcome your fear of tests and face your next college exam with ease and confidence.
Learn how to relax under pressure. If test-taking anxiety is a problem for you, you need to address this first. Otherwise, no matter how much you study, your anxiety is going to prevent you from performing as well as you should be able to. Research a few simple deep-breathing exercises and get into the habit of using them whenever you start to feel anxious, stressed, or just plain freaked out. Before you know it, you’ll find that your test-taking phobia will start to diminish.
Don’t show up unprepared. It should go without saying, but the first rule of effective test-taking is devoting sufficient time to studying and other pre-test preparations. Making sure that you’re well-rested, well-fed, and on time on the day of the test will also help you boost your performance.
Develop a strategy. As soon as you get your hands on the exam, take a quick look at the whole thing and sketch out a very basic plan of attack. If there are some sections that look easier than others, you might want to get those out of the way first so that you’ll be able to devote more time to more challenging questions.
Pace yourself. After you’ve looked over the entire test, take note of how many questions there are and whether they are short-answer, multiple-choice, essay questions, matching, or some other format. Check your watch and develop a timeline for completing each section of the test, allotting a sufficient chunk of time for the length and difficulty of each part.
Read instructions carefully and double-check your answers. All too often, well-meaning test-takers end up being foiled by preventable errors, such as not following the instructions closely or making simple mistakes in calculations or spelling. It’s well worth the time it takes to read the instructions of each section three or four times and to double-check your answers before you hand in your exam. You never know – you might just catch an error or omission that could mean the difference between passing and failing.
Are you a test-taking pro or an exam-phobic nervous wreck? Do you have any good stories about your past test-taking triumphs or failures? Share your experiences in the comments.
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