Handling Test Anxiety
Many people are anxious and suffer from stress before and during an examination. They may even
make simple errors that are not typical of their usual behavior. People who take licensing exams
often experience greater stress due to a need to succeed because the results will determine
whether or not they will be able to enter their chosen field. It is therefore important to
prepare yourself emotionally to take your license exam.
Part of being prepared emotionally is for you to be able to recognize the symptoms of stress
and anxiety. Stress is often strong enough to lead to incresed heart rate, shortness of breath,
trembling hands, shaking legs, nausea, sweating, etc. Test anxiety and worry lead to a series
of negative results including poor concentration, confusion, negative attitudes or moods,
negative self-orientation, fear, anger, and even panic.
Often a person develops poor coping strategies such as becoming involved in negative self talk.
A common psychological defense against these negative feelings and thoughts is giving up and
becoming helpless or paralyzed during a test. The ability to perform well under pressure,
however, is a skill that you can learn. Several strategies for overcoming test anxiety follow.
The major factor involved in test anxiety is a lack of preparation. Most test-anxious people
have poor study habits and have not prepared adequately for the test. They then attribute their
poor performance to a lack of ability or capacity to perform.
Take an objective look at your approaches to studying. If you are lacking in good study habits,
you may want to take a study skills training course. Set realistic study goals with ample time
for quality learning and repetition. One rule of thumb is that for each hour of class time,
study one or two hours at home.
Often the test situation, the examination room, the large number of candidates, and being
watched by the person giving the exam intimidates candidates. It is important for you to feel
comfortable and relaxed in the testing situation.
Knowledge about taking exams helps people relax during the actual exam. Keep information about
the date, time, and duration of the exam in mind.
For more information, please choose the appropriate Candidate Handbook document for your desired license type, containing examination tips, study materials and sample test questions for the exam. Since these are Adobe PDF files, you can save the one that applies to you, after it opens in your browser, and then, at your convenience, print the document for reference.
The method of progressive relaxation involves tensing a muscle system and then relaxing it.
Tensing a muscle will produce increased relaxation when the muscle is subsequently relaxed.
Start at one end of the body and work to the other end. Practice every day for 10 to 15 minutes
until you gain the increased ability to relax at will.
Alternately tense and stretch various muscles in your body. Concentrate on the difference in
being tense and being relaxed. Tense your whole body, and then relax your whole body. Practice
every day until you notice the gradual improvement in your ability to relax. This will give you
confidence and the ability to relax when you take the exam.
Another method is to breathe deeply and slowly, letting your body go limp and allowing every muscle in your body to relax while you concentrate on your breathing. Start with your hands. Imagine them to be warn and heavy. Repeat to yourself "my hands are warm and heavy" several times. Maintain a slow, patterned breath rhythm. Progress to the arms, then the shoulders, and continue until you relax your whole body. Do this 5-10 minutes a day. Look into other, different methods of relaxation. Many books about relaxation techniques are available.
Avoid Negative Thinking
Test-anxious people tend to be preoccupied with themselves. They concentrate on their negative thougths and feeling instead of concentrating on solving problems or answering test questions. The way to cope with this is to monitor your thinking. When you hear yourself talking negatively, be aware of it. Stop talking negatively and start positive self-talk.
Page last modified: 6/8/2015