How to deal with test anxiety

Almost everyone has experienced the sensation of stress and anxiety that arises before an aptitude test, just like the ACT, the SAT, and Advanced Placement exams. The best method to follow is the “3 R’s.” It’s grounded in neuroscience and is straightforward and effective if practiced regularly. The three R’s are skills your brain must learn, like riding a motorcycle. You’ll be able to use the three R’s for any variety of anxiety, not just the test-taking kind. But first, understanding text anxiety is imperative.

The first thing is trying to find the test-anxiety cure: Don’t fear the sensation of stress! Moderately, anxiety before an exam is healthy and even helpful—it shows how invested you are in the test. Think about test anxiety as coffee: in small doses, it can increase the “fight or flight” hormones in your system that provide you with razor-sharp concentration, peak mental stamina, and therefore the ability to maneuver mountains of knowledge in your mind. However, an excessive amount can send your system into overdrive and cause a jittery, panicked feeling of helplessness that may devastate test performance. 

Mastering your mind and anxiety is the “secret ingredient” of reworking mediocre practice into best, and most students experience one or the other symptoms of test anxiety. The three R’s method is suggested because it is perfectly compatible with other medical treatments and diagnoses and has only positive side effects. If you’re feeling like your anxiety is interfering substantially with your standard of living, see your medical provider and try the three R’s to confirm you’ve got enough support.

Step 1: Recognize your triggers and patterns.

Understanding your unique triggers and patterns is the first step in the process. Get to understand this sensation intimately. How does anxiety manifest in your body? Does one feel nauseous? A tightening in your jaw? Chest pressure? Sweaty palms? This initiative involves mastering your anxiety blueprint so you can see it. Anxiety doesn’t come knocking, and before you recognize it, it’s overtaking your mind and body, causing a full-blown panic spiral. By identifying your blueprint, you’re taking the primary step to mastering your anxiety. You’ll be able to reply to these uncomfortable sensations in your body by telling yourself that they’re nothing over your programmed anxiety response. 

This is important because labeling and categorizing emotions and responses help be aware and prevent things from spiraling out of control. This is going to help tremendously on the test day.

Step 2: Regroup your thoughts.

It’s easy for your anxiety to gain control of you and your emotions. If left unchecked, you will go down an overthinking spiral. Fear overtakes your brain with negativity, undermining focus and ending in more anxiety. This is a negative feedback loop; therefore, it’s time to regroup once you recognize your symptoms. Regrouping means distancing yourself from the physical sensation going down during this case. The best way to do this is often by doing something that tells your body you’re still accountable. Take charge of your thoughts and unpleasant sensations by reminding yourself that they result from chemicals released from negative and anxious thoughts in your body.

In other words, these anxious feelings are caused by thoughts, not by “real,” tangible things. These are the negative thoughts that cause worry in your body. Recollect yourself by telling yourself that these thoughts are invisible and can be changed; nothing is physically blocking you apart from yourself.

Step 3: Refocus and repeat

Refocusing is the most potent of the three R’s, but it also requires the greatest practice. This stage reprogrammes your mind away from unproductive, negative feelings and thoughts and toward a more positive, tranquil area.

  • First, take your time (extended, quality time!) to consider a good phrase, image, or action personally meaningful to you. This thinking or activity should feel good, relaxed, and confident. Ideas, such as seeing oneself confidently answering test questions, work well for certain students.
  • Actions can also be used to break up negative ideas. Squeezing your hands and releasing the strain are two examples of taking three calm, deep breaths with a protracted exhale.
  • Remember that the positive refocus step, like your anxiety plan, should be unique to you. Why is this step important? Neuroscience demonstrates that imagining and feeling the feelings of a favorable announcement about yourself—as if it were genuinely happening and not just your imagination—will lead you to that positive sense over time. This is true even if you don’t first trust the excellent message. Continue to say it to yourself with conviction.

If worry and stress play a significant role in your life right now, it will most likely take a lot of practice before you notice the training response kick in.

However, the work and preparation you put in will pay off handsomely. For example, the first time you do the three R’s cycle, Their effectiveness grows with persistence and dedicated practice.

Regroup and remind yourself that you—not your negative, intangible thoughts—are to blame for how you are feeling and respond, then keep refocusing on your positive image, phrase, or action. Prioritize practicing the three R’s in your life to the maximum amount as you concentrate on studying and taking practice exams. Start months before so that they become automatic when you’re within the examination room. You will find that building this mental and psychological stamina within yourself has the potential to rework your worst and unsightly feelings into your most treasured test-taking weapon.


For more advice to assist you in steeling yourself for standardized tests, take a look at the Miles Smart Tutoring blog and websites. We have experienced tutors handcrafting study plans for different tests. These plans are designed for students keeping in mind that every student is unique and has unique strengths and weaknesses. Our material and test plans have proven to aid students in the ACT, SAT, and other exams. Stay subscribed for more advice on how to get over test anxiety and ace it with flying colors.

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