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Nervous Test Taker? Tips to Calm your Nerves so you can get the Score you Deserve

It’s December, and that means finals and standardized testing. For the month of December, we’re going to focus on getting your mind in the right place for test taking. I promise this will spill over into better applications, essays, interviews, and everything else school and college application related. Focus on applying these techniques to one aspect of your life, test taking, and you’ll see it improving other aspects as well. These are super easy tips that you can start implementing today.


Get Enough Sleep


This is the most effective technique to a productive life and feeling good for your tests. Just think about the last time you were sleep deprived. Were you as productive as you normally are? Were you thinking clearly?Sleep is critical to being at the top of your game. I’m going to repeat that: Sleep is CRITICAL to being at the top of your game.


So how do you get enough sleep when you have 11 assignments due, plus finals to study for, plus 7 college application essays to write? The key is putting sleep first. If you find yourself getting drowsy in the afternoon and your productivity starting to fall off (i.e., didn’t I read the paragraph already?), take a 25 minute nap. You will save so much time by making sure you’re not spending your time at half-brain capacity.


Front Load Your Work


Think about the last test you took where you had been caught up the entire semester. You were periodically reviewing your notes and making sure everything made sense to you. You prepared your study materials as the class progressed and started reviewing for the test weeks in advance. Were you nervous? Now contrast that to the class where you didn’t pay attention all semester, only did 50% of the homework, and put off studying for the test until the day before. How did that test go? Even if you got an OK grade, what was your mental state afterwards? Were you an exhausted wreck?


Being prepared will benefit you over and over again in many aspects of your life. The key is to schedule time to prepare every week. Put it in your calendar to review your notes and make it non-negotiable note-reviewing time each week. Schedule time in your calendar to prepare study materials each week. Once you develop this habit, it will be so easy to implement, and your tests will feel like a breeze. You won’t be overwhelmed because you will have broken each task into a manageable chunk and done it over time. This works great for large assignments as well.


Be in the Moment


This is all about focus and not getting overwhelmed. Don’t let your mind drift to “OMG, if I don’t get an A on this test, then I’m not getting into Harvard, Ahhh!” Practice staying in the moment and focusing on the task at hand. When you are in a test taking environment and you feel yourself drifting off to think about something else, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and count to three. Then re-focus on the test you’re taking.


Once you get used to this, it will become easy for you to get focused and stay focused. It just takes practice and experimenting. Figure out what focusing exercises work best for you. Maybe if you’re starting to get unfocused during studying, you need to go for a jog or take a nap. Maybe if you’re starting to freak out during a test you just need to put your pencil down and picture yourself on a beach for a few seconds. Once you figure out what works for you, you can use this technique over and over in your life to stay focused and productive in whatever you’re doing.


Action Steps

  1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night this week and see how much more focused and productive you are.
  2. Start prepping for your finals today. Use the tips from last week.
  3. Practice being in the moment today.

This month we’re going to go more into detail on each of these techniques. Let me know if you have any specific questions about any of them.


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