Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
Dr. Alan Hill
Associate Director, Counseling Center
The key to reducing high test anxiety is to change your perspective on the meaning of the test, from a dangerous experience that puts your worth and future on the line to a challenging experience that you are prepared to meet. Strategies that help you develop this perspective are to:
Remember the Basics: Prepare well, eat well and get a good night’s sleep.
Get Real: Let go of perfectionism and accept that to do anything really challenging means that you risk failing. It also means de-catastrophizing the test. To quote Albert Ellis, “nothing is terrible, horrible or terrible, just damned inconvenient.” No matter the results of a test, you will learn from it, continue to work toward your dream (or find another) and make your way to a happy and productive life.
Clean Up Your Internal World:
Change your Negative Self-Statements: “I have to do well” to “I want to do well”, or “I am a failure” to “I didn’t do as well on this test.” Do you feel the difference? Get rid of should, have to and must, as well as self-downing labels such as loser, failure or stupid!
Defuse from Your Negative Thoughts: Use mindfulness and/or meditation to defuse and detach from your negative thoughts.
Develop Positive Self-Statements: Develop a mantra to use during the test, like “I can do this,” and some statements to help you cope, like “This is the anxiety that I thought I might feel. Take a deep breath.”
Relax Your Body and Your Mind Will Follow: Use deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback to reduce your anxiety.
Finally put it all together. Right before the exam, relax yourself, repeat your mantra and visualize a good performance. Our website, http://www.kzoo.edu/counsel/help.htm#test, provides a visualization exercise and details on the other strategies. Bon chance!