“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain”
Frank Herbert, “Litany Against Fear” from Dune
“Cool, ‘cause I don’t get upset”
Eric B. & Rakim, “Microphone Fiend”
We’re often confronted by students with the same concern in many different forms: it goes along the lines of “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I’m a bad test taker” or “I straight up blank out the second I’m in front of a test.”
For as long as there have been tests, there has been test anxiety; for as long as there has been test anxiety, educators have been attempting to cure it.
WHAT IS IT THOUGH??
Well, first off, it’s real-- but it’s very rare that you’ll need to see a doctor to deal with it.
Test anxiety manifests in many different forms, all generally following the ancient “fight or flight” defense mechanism we’ve all dealt with.
Your body, registering something as dangerous or potentially damaging, begins to shift from its parasympathetic nervous system (the system that slows our metabolism and allows us to chill out) to its sympathetic nervous system (the system that prepares the body for intense physical activity). Hands become clammy, cold sweats break out, breathing rate is increased, and sometimes full-blown panic attacks set in.
OKAY, BUT HOW CAN I DEAL WITH IT?
Through practice and repetition.
Have you ever prepared yourself (usually in school or with your family at home) for a disaster, natural or otherwise? Doing things like fire drills prepares people for a fire because they have pretended many times that they’re actually dealing with a fire.
The same logic can be directly applied to test anxiety. How does your test anxiety manifest? What explicit symptoms do you deal with? Take some time
THREE HELPFUL STRATEGIES…
Mens Agitat Molem-- No, this Latin adage doesn’t translate to “Men Agitate Moles,” though it is a hilarious mental image-- it’s better known as “Mind Over Matter.” Your body can’t tell the difference between anxiety and excitement. What does this mean? Well, it means that you are (consciously or otherwise) making a choice to be excited or anxious about a given situation.
Shake it off, as T.Swift so famously advises us all. Really, shake it off. Science can’t explain it, but professionals from athletes to concert pianists alike all experience a reduction in performance anxiety by shaking their hands vigorously for a few seconds at a time.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. We’re beginning to sound like a broken record, but simply engaging in daily practice to prepare yourself for taking the Big Test will eliminate test anxiety bit by bit until you’ve completely eliminated any possible source of stress.
Check out the following resources for some additional angles on overcoming test anxiety:
As always-- if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email us at
The only bad questions are those that go unasked!