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Overcome Test Anxiety in 5 Steps

Test Anxiety Tips and Strategies

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We've all been there - tapping our pencil, bouncing our knees, wiggling our feet- filled with test anxiety right before the big test. When you're sitting in the desk, it's a little too late to manage your stress physically. Sure, you can take some calming breaths while tensing and relaxing those muscles, but the toughest test anxiety war can be waged in your head.

The following five test anxiety tips will help get those nerves settled right before you take the big test. So read on!

Test Anxiety Tip #1: Set Realistic Expectations.

Students in further education
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You may never score perfectly on the SAT, GRE, or GMAT and you know what? That's okay! Drop the image of who you think you should be. Before you head to the testing center, set a realistic goal for yourself (no one else) before you ever arrive. Practice with a test booklet, so you know what you can and can't do. Part of your test anxiety may be coming from lofty expectations.

Test Anxiety Tip #2: Say, "I choose to."

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Instead of saying "I have to take this test," wrap your lips around this phrase: "I choose to take this test." By focusing on the fact that the test you're taking is set up by your own design, you take ownership of the stressor and that possession can have a relaxing effect, calming your test anxiety down a little bit.

Test Anxiety Tip #3: Use Positive Imagery

Getty Images | Kraig Scarbinsky

Obviously, the most relaxing place in the world is not a classroom – all those right angles and hard textures don't make for serenity. But if you can mentally transport yourself to a place that is soothing to you from the comfort (or lack thereof) of your desk chair,  you can ease some of the test anxiety building inside of you. Bury your toes in imaginary sand. Feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders. Listen for the lap of waves breaking against a warm beach. Pour yourself mentally into a hammock by the beach and calm your nerves a little bit. You'll be surpirsed how much test anxiety you can alleviate by just transporting yourself to a place without a ticking clock.

Test Anxiety Tip #4: Repeat an Uplifiting Phrase

Getty Images | Mark Wilson

Much of our test anxiety comes from our own lack of confidence, and since your cheering section can't sit with you during the test and root for you, you're going to have to boost your own morale. One good strategy? Make like the Dalai Lama, and repeat a positive mantra. Try a phrase like, "I can do this," or "I deserve to achieve my goals." Say something positive to yourself for a quick confidence boost, and who knows! You may just start believing it.

Test Anxiety Tip #5: Squash Negative Voices

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We all have them in our lives – the naysayers. Those people who aren't happy with their own lives and want to pull us down into the muck. Maybe they've told you you'd never make it to grad school. Maybe they said you'd bomb the big test. Those thoughts can leave you burning with test anxiety.

Before testing, take a few moments to jot down the negative things you've heard on a scrap sheet of paper. Then, compose some rebuttals. If someone has always told you you'd never amount to much, then counter with the fact that you're sitting for this big test, one that could possibly alter your future for the better. Maybe someone else told you your test was impossible to ace. Write down the name of the test prep aid you used to prepare yourself.

As an added test anxiety relief, wad up the entire piece of paper and toss it into the trash.

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