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Overcoming Test Anxiety

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Presentation on theme: "Overcoming Test Anxiety"— Presentation transcript:

1 Overcoming Test Anxiety
Student Academic Success Center Do you study hard, but “blank out” in the middle of exams? Do you find yourself feeling so stressed before tests that you almost feel sick? Do you feel overwhelmed just thinking about taking your next exam?

2 Understanding Anxiety
What is Anxiety? A Physiological and psychological response to a perceived danger or threat This means that we can learn to perceive the situation differently

3 Impaired concentration
Anxiety Symptoms Psychological: Confusion Memory blocks Irritability Impaired concentration Poor judgments Frustration Physiological Upset stomach Restlessness Sleep problems Muscle tension Headaches Back pain When an individual perceives an exam to be a “danger” or a threat (“But, I might fail”), these are some of the symptoms they may experience. These can undermine one’s ability to perform in a test situation.

4 Assess Yourself As you think about your experiences with test anxiety, what “score” would you give yourself? A 1 would mean that you have a sense of complete calm and confidence about test taking. However, a more common feeling is to be a little nervous before an exam, even though you have strategies to manage your stress. A 10 would mean that you are extremely stressed-in fact you go into tests and can hardly remember your own name. You experience most, it not all, of the symptoms listed on the previous side.

5 Approaches to Managing Test Anxiety
Cognitive Restructuring (Challenging negative thoughts) Efficient Learning Strategies (Preparation) Relaxation Techniques A Balanced Life There are several ways to approach the problem of test anxiety. We have chosen four strategies that we feel are most effective. Let’s now take a closer look at each strategy….

6 1. Cognitive Restructuring
The first approach is combating test anxiety is to examine the thought that creates anxiety “Cognitive Restructuring” is based on the premise that what you are feeling right now is altered by what you are thinking-internal messages or “self-talk”. The goal is to restructure those thoughts that cause anxiety and undermine your success. Challenging self-defeating and negative thoughts can be a very powerful way to manage anxiety.

7 Consequence/Result (Anxiety)
A+B=C Model Activating Event (test) + Beliefs/Thoughts = Consequence/Result (Anxiety)

8 Now take a moment and consider the thoughts that are going through your mind before an exam.

9 Changing our Thinking We all talk to ourselves, but we don’t realize how negative internal dialog can thwart our attempts to do well in exams. Often, we not only accept but cultivate negative and irrational messages, which creates even greater anxiety. A seed of negative self-talk can be planted as a result of fear, bad experience, or misdirected motivation.

10 So, how can you actually restructure the way you think?
Saying, “Just stop thinking that way” doesn’t usually work. Cognitive restructuring involves exchanging a negative thought process with a rational, balanced message based on reason.

11 Thoughts that Lead to Anxiety
“I’m terrible at taking tests.” “I’m just not smart enough.” “If I fail this test, I’m going to get kicked out of Grand Valley.”

12 Rational Thoughts “Taking tests is hard for me, but I will prepare, work hard, and do my best!” “Math is a difficult subject for me. I am a smart person; I just need to learn new strategies to learn math.” “How I perform on a test does not determine my value as a person”

13 How do you restructure this message to yourself?
“You got a D on your last BIO test, even though you thought you did well. You are going to do just as bad this time.” Take a sheet of paper and try this. Write down a few sentences that reflect how you would restructure this message. Remember, you are going to re-write this “thought” to make it a realistic, yet positive and encouraging message to yourself. “I have had some bad experiences with tests before, but with this test I am going to let myself start fresh. I will go into this exam recognizing that I have studied and now will just share what I know. I will use my test taking strategies and do my best.”

14 I MUST GET A GOOD GRADE! Let’s say there is a lot riding on this test. In fact, let’s say that if you don’t get an A or a B you will not be able to get into a program that you have been wanting to get into all your life!! The pressure is not only in your head-there are significant consequences to not doing well. So, how would you restructure this message?

15 “I recognize that if I do not get an A on this test it may change my life plans. But I also know I have done all I know to do to prepare for this exam. I know that putting too much pressure on myself can backfire. So I am choosing to release myself from the pressure, and realize that as much as I want this A, I can and will handle the consequences of the grade I make. I will do my best. I can do no more.” Taking the pressure off with messages that are true and encouraging can make the difference between freezing and being able to share what you know about the topic on the test.

16 Let’s Practice: “I’ll probably fail because this teachers tests are always impossible.” Restructured thought: ______________________________________________________________________________________________ “I have always been a terrible test taker. I just know I will fail this one too.” Restructured thought: ______________________________________________________________________________________________

17 So……the goal of restructuring our thoughts is to release oneself from the pressure of messages that undermine your ability to perform to the best of your ability.

18 Dealing with the past Write down everything you have experienced in the past while taking tests. Include physical symptoms, emotions, thoughts, behaviors etc. Now go back and think about each item. What are ways in which each anxiety might be eliminated or reduced?

19 Dealing with Test Anxiety Involves Changing Your Mindset
We must take responsibility for our own choices regarding test anxiety We are all creatures of habit and patterns, but we have the capacity to change. Realize it is a PROCESS – it won’t change overnight The “answers” do not lie in magic-they lie in making changes and implementing strategies. A change of lifestyle patters and thoughts come with repetition and practice

20 Things to dwell on Create your own positive mantra
I have done what I can, now I am just going to do my best. I have a choice as to how I perceive this situation. Will I remember this in 10 years? My performance on a test does not determine my value as a person. Create your own positive mantra

21 2. Use Efficient Learning Strategies and Prepare
Many students are having test anxiety for good reason…They are not prepared! There is no substitute for being prepared

22 Preparing for the Test Do the reading Keep up with the day to day work
Take good notes, fill in and clarify right Go to study groups/tutoring Review material within 24 hours Review regularly Make flashcards Overview the work to be done, prioritize topics and schedule time to do it. ( Try to give yourself 7 days to study for tests) Make up practice tests or do practice problems. Use study strategies that work for how you learn Work to understand the material not just to memorize it.

23 Taking the Test Arrive early! Take a deep breath
Read the directions! Identify the value of questions Download any key information (formulas, equations, lists, etc.) Answer questions in a strategic order/plan your time Easy questions first, those with most points next, difficult after Try to answer the question stem on your own before you look at the answers. Read all the answers before you choose one (for multiple choice) Look for answers in other test questions Review To make sure you didn’t misread a question

24 Analyzing Returned Tests
If you receive your test back to keep, rework your errors If not, meet with your professor Identify the reason you missed questions Did you miss “big picture concepts” or details? Where did the questions come from? Book, lecture, etc. Analyze how you prepared – did it work?

25 3. Relaxation Techniques: Deep Breathing
Inhale a deep full breath all the way down to your tummy, then exhale slowly and completely. Think of breathing in peace with each inhalation. Visualize blowing out tension and negativity with each exhalation

26 Take a few moments to try this deep breathing exercise
Take a few moments to try this deep breathing exercise. As you inhale slowly, fill your lungs as full as you can. When you exhale, allow your muscles to relax as you blow out all tension and anxious thoughts. Repeat this several times. Do this before you study, in the middle of a break, just before a test, and in the middle of your test. Not only do our bodies relax when we practice deep breathing, but our brains work much better with sufficient oxygen! This extra oxygen allows you to think more clearly and can help alleviate mental blocks! Try it!!

27 Relax… Progressive Relaxation
Progressive relaxation is an exercise whereby you slowly and methodically relax each muscle in your body while keeping your mind alter and calm. It can take from 5 minutes up to 20 or more minutes. It is a very calming and soothing way to relax your body and prepare for a test that may normally cause anxiety. It can also be an effective exercise to practice before studying. The next three slides include a progressive relaxation “script”

28 4. A Balanced Life It is important that you balance your academic life and the time you focus on studying with the other elements of your life. Take time to be with friends and family, exercise, take care of your spiritual and emotional needs.

29 Physical Health Eat good meals Drink plenty of water Exercise Relax
Have fun Get enough sleep Staying healthy will help you avoid illness and burn-out

30 Emotional Health Practice forgiveness of self and others
Find something you are passionate about Do things that make you feel good about yourself Develop good friendships Communicate feelings appropriately Serve and support others Seek help if you need to

31 Intellectual Health Spiritual Health Social Health Take time for quiet
Find something you are interested in learning about Read and discuss Adopt new learning strategies Diversify what you learn about Spiritual Health Take time for quiet Practice faith Social Health Laugh Seek time with people that make you feel good Try new things

32 Counseling and Career Development Center Your academic Advisor
If your anxiety interferes with your every day life, every day, seek help from a professional. Don’t be afraid to, because it can get better. Resources at GVSU: Counseling and Career Development Center Your academic Advisor The Student Academic Success Center Tutoring/Instructional Support Study Skill Coaching Academic Success Workshops

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