What students should know when anxiety levels are put to the test

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Test anxiety and ineffective study habits can keep students from succeeding in college. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to improve study skills, overcome test anxiety and make that upcoming exam seem less daunting.

William Jawmes
The Broadside
Test anxiety and ineffective study habits can keep students from succeeding in college. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to improve study skills, overcome test anxiety and make that upcoming exam seem less daunting.
“Poor preparation or understanding of the material, negative past experiences with test taking, fear of the possible outcome—those all create a negative perception of the test,” said Sara Henson, the department chair for Human Development at Central Oregon Community College.
The right attitude can make all the difference with test anxiety, according to Henson.
“Definitely think positively,” said Henson. “Use affirmations to re-train yourself to perceive testing in a positive light. No test, no matter how important is a life or death thing.”
Another important step for students is to get enough sleep. Students with a set bedtime had higher math and literacy skills according to a 2010 study at the University of Minnesota. Staying up late an extra three hours on the weekend, even if you studied all three hours, affects your body the same as flying across three different time zones in one night, according to the study.
“Please always make sure you get enough sleep before a test,” said Henson.
A nap before an exam or study time won’t do much good, either. A nap might make students feel better once they wake up, but it won’t help repair cognitive function, according to the UOM study.
Instead of a nap, Henson said the best way to get ready for a hard test or a long lecture in class is knowing effective ways to take notes and study the subject in question.
“This means knowing what you need to study and how you’ll be tested, breaking big tasks into smaller chunks, creating a schedule that allows you to cover all the material over time and working in time with tutors or a study group to your schedule,” said Henson.
However, there are obstacles along the way that stressed students have a tough time avoiding. Such pitfalls as the ‘cram approach’—studying for hours on end with no breaks—can make students anxious and negatively affect performance, according to Henson.
“Breathe and relax if you’re feeling anxious,” said Henson. “Practice relaxation techniques to help you focus and reconnect with what you’ve been learning.”
Having a set time every day to study can also help improve academic performance, according to the UOM’s Counseling and Consulting department. Setting a pattern allows the brain to change physically based on what you do on a daily basis, making the task easier to remember and complete.
A five week long test taking class is offered at COCC during summer term that encompasses note taking, proper study skills and time management and managing stress before an exam.
“If students want to go more in depth with these strategies, then that class is available to them,” said Henson.
(Contact:wjames@cocc.edu)

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