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Get Rid of Test Taking Anxiety by Front Loading Your Work

When you’re well prepared, you’re less nervous. This is true with everything under the sun. From public speaking to traveling to a foreign country. The more preparation you do, the less nervous you will be for the actual event and the better it will go. This is especially true for test taking. If you simply stay up the night before cramming for a test, you will likely be nervous when you take it and not do nearly as well as if you had front loaded the work ahead of time. Now you might be like, “That’s great, Jessica, but I have a test next week.” I’m going to give you some tips to prep for your tests in a less overwhelming way, even if you only have a week. But please use these techniques next semester or for your standardized tests (AP, SAT, ACT, etc.) to really use them to their full potential.


Schedule Your Study Time


When I was studying for the professional engineer’s exam (an 8-hour exam!!), I got my study materials months in advance and figured out how much time I needed to study each week to get through the material in time for the test. Then I put that time on my calendar. You will need a lot less study time than I did for that test, but figure it out in the beginning. If you have one week and you think you need about 7 hours to review your notes and go through practice problems for a 1-hour chemistry final, that’s 1 hour per day of studying. Add it to your calendar. You know how long you can focus for. You know what time of the day you study best (if you don’t, figure it out). Plan accordingly.


For standardized tests, check your test prep book or go online to get recommendations for the amount of time to dedicate to studying for the test. Then schedule it in your calendar. The more in advance you do this, the less time per week you will need.


Create Tools to Make Studying More Efficient


A few weeks ago I talked briefly about some study tools to make finals easier. Flash cards, timelines, and cheat sheets are all great ways to increase the efficiency of your study time. Test the different options available to you for studying tools and see what gets you the best results. What keeps you focused? I know for me, my favorite way to study for science classes with lots of formulas that I needed to memorize was to write out a cheat sheet with all the formulas and constants I might need to know. Even if our teacher let us use the cheat sheet during the test, I almost always had the formulas memorized just from creating the sheet.


The key to getting tools that work for you is starting early. If you have a test next week, set aside an hour right after you read this to create your study materials. That way you can get right down to review during your next study sessions. If you study best by doing lots of practice problems, put together your problems now so when you have time to study you don’t have to look for problems or think about which problems to do. You have them already set up.


Make Studying Fun


Now we all know studying isn’t the most fun thing you could be doing, but there are lots of ways to make it more enjoyable even if the material itself is boring. My favorite way by far is studying with my friends. Create a study group and set aside time each week to meet up. If someone has a question, chances are someone in the group can answer it. This also gives you some great accountability because you don’t want to be the person in the group not pulling your weight. Just be sure to STUDY during study group time!


Another great way to make studying more enjoyable is to listen to some of your favorite music. Anything that helps you focus works. It doesn’t have to be classical.


Action Steps


  1. Schedule time in your calendar today for studying for your next test.
  2. Set aside 1 hour today to start on your study materials.
  3. Create a study group to make studying more fun.

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