Most of us grew up hating tests, but some hated tests more than others. If tests really aren’t your thing, then you might have test anxiety. Test anxiety is a form of anxiety that is invoked by; you guessed it, taking tests. It can make you feel a variety of both mental and physical symptoms and can be treated by you or by an expert. This article is to serve as a starting point to give you some tips and tricks to help manage your test anxiety.
We are not medical experts, and this article is not meant to provide medical advice. Test anxiety is an anxiety disorder, so if you need help, please seek professional help.
What are the Causes of Test Anxiety for High Schoolers?
There are so many things that can cause test anxiety in high schoolers. On top of the normal stresses that come with school in general, high schoolers are under the added stress of thinking about college. Balancing the stress of good grades in school with the stress of performing well on standardized testing can lead to high test anxiety in high school students.
Families can also cause a huge amount of stress for high school students. If you have a high school student at home, make sure that you are not unintentionally adding to their stress, and are encouraging positive self-talk. High school is stressful enough without excessive parental pressures, so make sure you are encouraging your student to do their best without putting undue pressure on them.
How Do High School Students Deal with Test Anxiety?
High school students can deal with test anxiety in a variety of ways. The biggest ways that they can deal with test anxiety is to either treat the stressors or treat the symptoms. Treating the stressors would involve lessening the amount of stress the student puts on themselves as well as external pressures. Treating the symptoms would involve learning to manage the physical responses to test anxiety.
While it would be nice if we could give you some great tips on treating the root of the problem, that isn’t always that realistic. One thing that can help alleviate test anxiety in high school students is to think about picking colleges or universities to apply to that limit the emphasis on tests. Some colleges and universities are going test-optional, meaning that you don’t have to submit any standardized test results. This won’t fix the whole problem, but it can help.
The most common way high school students deal with test anxiety is by treating the symptoms they experience. This could be strategies for understanding test questions and focusing better, or it could be practicing breathing exercises. We’ll talk about some tips to help treat the common physical symptoms of test anxiety later on in this article.
What Percent of High School Students Have Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety statistics in high school students are vastly understudies, but, in general, around a quarter of all high school students are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but the number of students with an anxiety disorder is likely much higher than that. Some studies have estimated that upwards of 40% of high school-aged students suffer from test anxiety or another form of anxiety.
Anxiety, in its many forms, is a largely underdiagnosed disorder since so many people don’t understand how serious it can be. While someone with pretty minor test anxiety may be able to treat it themselves by studying differently or practicing calming exercises, other people with more severe test anxiety can benefit from professional help.
The number of students with test anxiety in middle school, high school and college have been going up in recent years, so even if you didn’t have test anxiety in middle school, doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from it at some point in high school or college. As the level of stress goes up, so does the amount of students struggling to manage test anxiety.
How Do You Calm Yourself Down Before a Big Test?
The best way to calm yourself down before a big test is to be prepared for the test. Start preparing for the test a little bit each day a few weeks in advance, so you are well and truly ready by the time the test comes around. Instead of telling yourself that you don’t know anything and you’re so stressed, try telling yourself that you have time to review and that you will do well. It can seem simple, but it can really help. We’ll cover more relaxation techniques and breathing exercises later on that you can also use to calm down before a big test.
Another thing that can be really helpful once you get to college is to talk to your teachers or professors about the test. This is something that not many high school students do, but most high school teachers are more than willing to sit down with you for 10 or 15 minutes to talk through any questions you might have. Getting used to asking your teachers for help in high school is also a great way to prepare yourself well for college.
You can also work with a counselor to help develop some strategies for you to use in the test. Figure out which type of test you do best on and which type or types of test stress you out the most. That way, you can tailor your strategies to that style of test. For example, if you struggle to focus during a test and get overwhelmed, particularly on a multiple-choice test, try asking your teacher if you can bring a few blank notecards into the test to cover up all the questions that you aren’t working on.
It might seem silly to just cover up the questions, but your brain might find it much easier to focus with less going on in front of it. There are other strategies like this that can help you trick your brain into not getting as stressed out. Talk to your teachers to see if they have any good strategies that they’ve heard of or used themselves. They might even have some good tips and tricks that are specific to their tests.
Is There a Medication for Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a form of anxiety and can be treated using the same strategies as for any other form of anxiety. This can include talk-based therapy or even medication in more severe cases. Like other forms of anxiety, there is no one type of medication that will help all students who suffer from test anxiety. There are a variety of medications out there that can be used to help a student with severe test anxiety. You will need to work with a professional to figure out what type is best for you or for your student, but this is a great way to help a student with severe test anxiety.
Medication is not typically used as a long-term solution to most anxiety disorders, so even if you try using medication to treat your test anxiety, be aware that it won’t be a forever solution. If medication allows you to practice your strategies without stressing yourself, then it can be a great option for you to use, but pairing a medication with practicing managing your test anxiety will serve you the best both for your high school tests and well into college.
How Do You Beat Test Anxiety: 7 Tips for High School Students
We’re going to give some tips that high school students can implement into their lives to help mitigate the negative effects of test anxiety on their lives. These tips and tricks can be used for you if you are suffering from test anxiety or for your student if you are a parent, guardian, or teacher helping a student suffering from test anxiety.
1. Be prepared
We know this sounds simple, but making sure that you are fully ready for the test is a simple step that you can take that can help alleviate some of the test anxiety. We recommend making a study schedule to help make sure that you are as prepared as possible when going into the test. Make sure you study a little bit every day as opposed to cramming near the end.
If you want help making a study schedule, check out our article on creating a study schedule here.
2. Take good care of yourself
Taking good care of yourself includes getting a good night’s sleep before any test, eating good food, and drinking plenty of water. Feeding your brain well and making sure that it has enough rest to process and store the information that you’ve studied is a great way to make sure the studying you’ve done sticks. Taking good care of yourself will give you the best possible chance of feeling good during the test.
3. Practice breathing exercises
There are a ton of breathing exercises out there that you can use to help calm yourself down and focus on the task at hand. The simplest is to take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Calming yourself down and grounding yourself in the moment is a great way to not get ahead of yourself and stress yourself out too much. Take some time in the week or so leading up to the test to practice some breathing exercises, so you feel confident in them when you actually try to use them in the test.
Here is another option for a good breathing exercise. Take a deep breath in, hold it, release it, hold it, and repeat.
Here’s a few more options to try if that doesn’t work for you.
4. Talk to your teacher about test accommodations
Most schools offer testing accommodations that will give you a quiet, distraction-free place to take your test and, if you need it, some extra time as well. Work with your teacher to figure out what will work best for you. Some students find extra time to be really helpful, while for others, extra time can be more time to stress out. You might have to put in some work to figure out what will work best for you.
5. Find some ways to help yourself focus during the test
Some people swear by having something to fidget with, like a ring to twirl or a stress ball to squeeze during a test. It can give you something to channel your stress and anxiety into and give you a physical sensation to help ground you in the moment. If your teacher allows it, you can also try chewing gum. Some people find that this helps them focus. There are even some studies out there that say that if you chew the same flavor of gum while studying for a test as you chew while taking the test, it can actually help with your information recall.
6. Get some exercise
Ideally, go out and get some exercise on the day of your test, but if that isn’t possible, make sure you get some exercise the day before. Maybe go for a walk with your friends or a bike ride around a park. Just do something to get your body moving and to help you sleep well the night before. Exercise is also a great way to increase your endorphins or the chemicals that make you feel happy, so it will also help with tip number 7.
7. Practice positive self-talk
This might seem super simple, but for a lot of people, positive self-talk can be really beneficial. The more your brain hears something, the more likely it is to believe it, so try telling your brain that you will do well every day when you wake up or even writing it on a sticky note to put on your mirror or right inside your locker. It might seem a little cheesy, but it’s a great way to start thinking more positively about yourself.
Wrapping Things Up: Key Takeaways on Reducing Test Anxiety for High School Students
There are so many ways you can help a high school student deal with test anxiety, but it is important to realize that you are not likely to make the anxiety go away totally. They will likely have to deal with some level of testing anxiety throughout the rest of high school and throughout whatever college or higher education, they go to. We hope this article has given you a good amount of tips and tricks to get started with managing your test anxiety.
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