I see it, often. I meet a student and we do an, initial, assessment. In person, the student does great. Understands the concepts, can eliminate the wrong answers and can defend why they picked the one they did, for their correct answer. Then I have them do a timed practice test. And they miss the same time of questions, they just did great on. What's going on?
They have test anxiety. Doing homework problems? Not a problem! However, when they see that word........
they lose their confidence. Why?
While many folks wonder if test anxiety is a real thing, those who have experienced, have no doubt. It's real. While it's normal to have some "butterflies" on the day of something like the ACT or SAT, those who experience true test anxiety describe it as so much more. Their minds go blank. They are panicked that they didn't study enough, no matter how much time they put into it. They show physical symptoms such as, sweating palms, hands shaking and heart racing. For some, these symptoms can start long before they sit down for their exam.
So, what can you do about it?
Before the exam.
1) I know it sounds simple, but have a plan to prepare. You can't study all the material you need in one week. Map out when you are taking your exam and put together a plan.
2) If possible, take the exam more than once. Or, take both the ACT and SAT, depending on the college you are shooting to attend.
3) Set a study schedule, and do your best to adhere to it. Life goes on and things happen. Have enough of a cushion built into your schedule that if something comes up, you won't be stressed about missing a day or two.
4) Focus on your health. Make sure you still do things to stay healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
During the exam.
1) Relax. Take a deep breath. The very act of taking a few deep breaths will reduce your anxiety. It will help your heart to slow a little.
2) Be confident! You've done the work. Your tutor has gone over every trick and tip possible. You KNOW the material. Believe in yourself. You can do this!
3) Keep positive thoughts. Remember that one math problem that you thought you couldn't do? Now, remember how you felt after you conquered it? Focus on that feeling. Focus on the fun things you have planned, after the exam. If a negative thought starts to creep in, switch to something positive. That negative thought will wither and die. Remember all your preparation.
4) Feel. Yes, this sounds weird, but focus on what you can touch. You desk, the paper, the pencil. Relax your muscles. Move your head from side to side, slowly. Don't stay hunched in one position. Do you have a small, favorite rock or something that you consider good luck? Just make sure it's small and can fit in your pocket. Just something to help you feel grounded, even for a moment. Make sure it doesn't have anything like the quadratic equation on it and you'll be fine.
All these little ideas are just that, ideas. Work with your tutor, and come up with a few of your own. Don't let anyone tell you your anxiety is not real. It's very real and everyone finds different ways to cope with it. You are not alone.
If you feel you have test anxiety, talk to someone. Your parents are the first step. You can overcome it, and beat it. I know you can.