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How to Deal With Test Anxiety and Get Better Grades

a female student holding a book over her face while standing against a brick wall

Test anxiety can range in severity from feeling butterflies in your stomach to all-out nausea. Whether your test anxiety is severe or mild, it can impact your score. However severe or mild your test anxiety, the bottom line is that it will have an impact on your score. Here's how to conquer those pre-test nerves to preserve your mental health and perform your best.

Before the Test…

Don’t Overstudy

It’s tempting to throw yourself into a rigid study schedule with no breaks. The harder you grind, the better your scores, right? Well, not necessarily. According to one study by a Stanford researcher, over-studying can lead to sleep deprivation and other health problems, including headaches and stomach issues. Limit yourself to studying for no more than two and a half hours each night and allow yourself to take breaks.

Practice Meditation

Meditation keeps you grounded and in the present, which in turn prevents you from worrying about things you cannot control. Don’t spend the night before the test worrying about what will happen if you fail. Use your time to meditate and focus on doing your very best. If you’ve done your best, there’s nothing else you can do to get a better outcome. Use a guide like this one from Mindful, to learn how to meditate.

The Morning Of…

Reduce Caffeine Intake

Too much caffeine can make you feel like your heart is beating out of your chest. If you’re already anxious, you’re even more susceptible to a caffeine overdose. Reduce your caffeine intake the morning of a test. While one cup would normally wake you up nicely, one cup on a test morning will only increase your anxiety. Try waking up with a glass of water with lemon or having a cup of tea instead.

Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

Few things disturb your focus more than a growling stomach. Don’t let yourself go hungry before a test. A full nutritious breakfast with fruit and a protein will help to keep your stomach full and satisfied, so you can focus. If you’re feeling nauseous, consider nibbling on something bland, like a piece of whole wheat toast. Or, bring a granola bar with you to school so you can eat something later on if you feel up to it.

During the Test…

Deep Breathing

The time has come. All around you pencils are scratching on paper and the ticking of the clock seems ultra loud as it counts down the seconds until you have to stand up and hand in your test. Take a deep breath in, hold it for five seconds, and blow it out for at least seven seconds. Taking a moment to do some deep breathing recenters your focus on your own test and calms down your nervous system so it doesn’t sabotage you before you even put pencil to paper.

Focus on What You Can Control

The fact is you cannot control everything that happens. You cannot control what questions are on the test, how quickly the time goes by, or whether any of your friends score better than you. While it’s tempting to worry about these things, try to recenter your energy on the things you can control. For example, you can control how well you studied, whether or not you brought a pencil and a calculator, and what you focus your energy on.

You Can Overcome Test Anxiety

With the right techniques, you can overcome test anxiety. Without the dark cloud of anxiety hovering over you on test day, you may be surprised at just how well you can do. A LeadYouth membership can help boost your confidence. Explore LeadYouth membership now.


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