Home / Campus News / Feeling a bit…anxious? Instructor offers tips on overcoming test anxiety

Feeling a bit…anxious? Instructor offers tips on overcoming test anxiety

Exam. Test.
Final.
Anyway you say
it, the fear is the same. First, the heart beats faster. Next, the stomach is
in knots.
It’s pretty
common for students to get anxious before a test, said CLC
psychology instructor Alita Reque-Peterson. But what’s less common is physical
illness and severe emotional stress that can be debilitating.
Still,
every year, students experience just that.
“That
fear can be so encompassing, it causes you to choke or freeze,” she said. “If
you can get your mind to
calm down, then you can relax and zone in, and you can focus on what you have
prepared for.”
To
help create that bridge from anxiety to relief, Reque-Peterson led a student workshop on Tuesday at Central
Lakes College’s Brainerd and Staples campuses.
“Preparation is
the biggest source of anxiety typically,” she said.
The first signs
of anxiety come when a student begins studying.
Anxiety
isn’t a bad thing, though.
“Stress
can push us and motivate us to prepare,” she said. “But it’s devastating when
it overcomes someone.”
So
Reque-Peterson offered students these tips:

Before
the test
*Pay attention
to phrases instructors use to signal importance: “Write this down,” “let me
summarize,” “let me say it again.”
*Note takers:
Don’t write down lectures verbatim. Develop a system of key words and phrases.
That will help you hear more of what’s being sad.
*Remembering
strategies: Select, remember, review/read/recite/rewrite.
-Select: Hone in
on what you have to focus on. Review notes, look at past assignments, and
review the study guide. No study guide provided? Make your own, outlining the
chapter and using the summaries in the back of the book.
-Remember: Use
visualization to connect and remember a definition with a picture or drawing.
-Review/read/recite/rewrite:
Read a section in a book, review it, recite it from memory, rewrite sections to
bring to class and cross-reference it with what the professor is saying.
“All of this can
help retain information much longer than going to class without having read the
chapter,” Reque-Peterson said.
*Use mnemonic
devices to remember information: Rhyme, acronym, abbreviation, acrostic.
Science courses
use this a lot, especially in nursing, Reque-Peterson
said.
*Active reading
strategies: Review a chapter and section headings, review bold type words,
study the pictures and tables, look at sidebar information, review and answer
the questions at the end of each chapter.
“Pictures and
tables are there for a reason: to enhance what’s in the text,” Reque-Peterson added. “Looking at those will help
later on, too.”
*Toss out
distractions. Put your phone away and find a quiet study zone. If hitting the
books at home proves to be too difficult, block out some time to study in the
library before heading home.
“You can get so
much more done in one hour of uninterrupted studying, compared to two hours of
distracted time at home,” she said.
During the
test:
*Come prepared.
*Stay focused.
Don’t let that early test finisher distract you when they get up.
*Have a
strategy. Scan the test first and tackle the easy parts next. Be sure to read
the entire question. Skip the question if you’re stuck and come back later.
Don’t forget to look over the whole test before turning it in.
“If you start
with hardest part first, you might spend entire time there and run out of time
for the rest of exam,” Reque-Peterson said.
*For multiple
choice/true or false/comparable type tests, follow these tips: Answer based on
your first impression. Don’t change your mind because of mere doubt.
More often than
not, Reque-Peterson says when a student changes
their answer they were right the first time.
*For essay
tests, follow these tips: Read the question carefully, rewording it if needed.
Answer the parts of the questions you know first. Outline your answer before
writing down the official one. Count answers and questions before handing it in
to make sure you didn’t overlook anything.
After the
test:
*Look over the
test after it’s graded. Make sure the instructor marked everything correctly.
*Review and
understand mistakes.
*Take notes about
what the instructor wanted.
*Ask about extra
credit you can do.
*Save the test
for review material for the final (if allowed).
“If you learn
about their testing and what information they’re looking for, you’re more keyed
into exactly what they are looking for,” Reque-Peterson
said. “It doesn’t mean you’ll get a different grade. But you can do what you
can to change and do better next time.”
Overcoming
test anxiety is a long process, Reque-Peterson said. It takes a sound strategy
and a good attitude.
“Negative self
talk really can do a lot of damage,” she said. “(Students) put so much pressure
on themselves to be perfect, and that can cause a debilitating fear that ‘if I
don’t pass this, I’ll fail everything.’”
She continued, “Allow
yourself to make mistakes. Don’t tie self-worth to an exam. Some people just
aren’t great test takers.”
Reque-Peterson
pointed to some campus resources: Counselors, tutors in the Learning Commons,
Disability Services, which can offer testing outside the classroom and a check and
connect coach.
*The
next workshop will cover stress management and starts at noon April 22.
It’s
free to CLC students, and is sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Tribal
Relations.

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