Overcoming Test Day Jitters

Let’s face facts. A lot is riding on the tests you have to take. Perform well, and you may be offered a place in a graduate program or a dream job. Perform poorly, and you’ll probably be spending the next few months trying to figure out what your next step should be.

The pressure can be intense, and as you get closer and closer to test day, your jitters can grow into an overwhelming obstacle. Despite your grasp of the materials, your anxiety can actually interfere with your success. People who feel nervous tend to second guess their answers, take too long on individual questions, or panic and give up before they ever really had a chance.

Fortunately, you can overcome your nervousness, and let your best self shine through in your exam.

There are plenty of things you can do leading up to the test which will help you perform well. For example, you can create and follow a study plan, take practice tests using simulated test-like conditions, and learn test-taking techniques that will improve your scores.

Even with all the prep in the world, though, it’s pretty common to feel overwhelmed, nervous, or anxious on test day. Here are five things you can do to manage your anxiety and ace the test.

1. Remember the Goal

Perspective is everything. With almost any test, it’s important to remember that you’re not being asked for perfection. Depending on the test, you may be shooting for a score that ranges between 60%-80%. That means you have room to make some mistakes, skip questions, or give it your best guess without conceding failure.

Before taking the test, find out what score you need to reach in to make it to the next level. Accepting that you don’t need to be perfect, and that the test administrator isn’t expecting perfection, should help calm your nerves.

2. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

If you start to hear the voice in your head say things like “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never succeed,” you need to push those feelings of negativity aside. Instead, try positive self-talk.

Tell yourself that you are capable of passing the test. Whisper phrases like “I can do this,” I know the materials,” and “I studied hard.” Positive self-talk helps you feel good about yourself and encourages you to look at the bright side. It can help you change your outlook on the test, as it builds your self-esteem and puts your mind in a position where it can succeed on the test.

3. A Good Night’s Sleep is Vital

Oftentimes nervousness comes when the body simply isn’t prepared to handle everything you are going throw at it that day. A good night’s sleep, coupled with a healthy breakfast or lunch, will put your body in a position to succeed.

In other words, avoid a stress-inducing, performance debilitating, all-night study session which will most likely put your nerves on edge and make it more difficult to succeed.

4. Arrive at the Test Site Early

Taking a test is stressful enough. There’s no reason to add more stress into your life by leaving late or even worse, watching the minutes to the test creep by as you inch forward in traffic.

Aim to arrive at your test site 15-30 minutes early. It will give you enough time to familiarize yourself with the environment and feel at ease. You’ll have time to eat a healthy snack or use the bathroom without feeling rushed.

5. Pack Your Things the Night Before

Nearly any test you take will require that you bring something to the test. For most tests, that’s a state-issued picture ID, although it can include other things, such as registration forms, pencils, calculators, or other items.

Make a list of everything you’ll need, and gather them together the night before the test. Put them with your keys or someplace where you will see them as you’re leaving. That way, you’ll have one less thing to worry about as you’re getting ready to walk out the door.

Remember, You’ve Got This

The bottom line is you’ve prepared for the test. You’ve put in the hours studying, and success is within your grasp. If you’re feeling the jitters, these tips should get you through test day, and help open up a bright future full of exciting opportunities for you.