Mind, body tips to help alleviate test anxieties

Sarah Sutherland, Campus Life Editor


Hand completing a multiple choice exam.


Students feeling anxiety over finals this season “can take power over it instead of becoming a victim to it,” an AACC counselor said.

In preparation for the upcoming finals season, knowing how to deal with test anxiety can help improve your mindset as well as your scores.

“People don’t understand that there are things you can do to decrease [test anxiety],” said Marguerite Falcon, an AACC counselor who presented a test anxiety workshop on campus on Nov. 9.

First, Falcon said, drink water before and during a test.“Hydration affects your memory and ability to perform,” Falcon said. “It is very easy to get dehydrated, so make sure to drink a lot of water before the test. [And] stay away from caffeine and alcohol … [which] can increase dehydration and affect your brain.” “However, final exam week is no time for daily coffee drinkers to try to kick the caffeine habit,” Falcon said. “Taking caffeine out of your diet abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.”

Next, she suggested that students stay away from triggers that can create stress.
For example, issues at home or relationship troubles can affect your studying habits and test performance, so try to avoid them.

Another step is to take notes as you study.
Taking good notes will help you retain information better and not be as nervous, Falcon said.
She said her favorite note-taking method is using acronyms to memorize information, a practice called mnemonics.

Falcon also suggested that positive thinking and visualizing success can increase confidence.
“Replacing negative words with positive words: That makes all the difference,” agreed Joe Fantana, a first-year culinary major.

“Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, music, muscle relaxation and aroma therapy can mentally prepare you for the test,” Falcon said.

Another tip is to answer test questions that you know before attempting those you’re not sure about. And, Falcon advised, read directions carefully.

Falcon also suggested a “memory dump:” Write down all the information you know as soon as you get the test. It eliminates your chances of forgetting anything.

Anita Ghimire, a second-year physician assistant major, said she tries not to look at others while testing. “When I look around, I become so nervous,” she said.

Finally, Falcon said to not panic if others finish before you; everyone works at a different pace.
How will you know if you have test anxiety? Some signs and symptoms are upset stomach, headache, negative thoughts, forgetting information, difficulty organizing thoughts, “feeling in a fog,” an unsusually fast heartbeat and sweaty palms.

About 20 percent of students have “high” test anxiety, according to the American Test Anxieties Association, while around 16 percent of students have “moderately high” test anxiety.
Student Services offers test anxiety and other personal-enrichment workshops throughout the semester.