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Post by Sneha Chaturvedi

The American Test Anxieties Association reports that about 16% of students struggle with test anxiety, especially when taking a long test like the SAT or ACT. While effectively prepping for your test will help you feel as comfortable as possible, here are some tips for managing anxiety when the test is in front of you.

Take a deep breath (or several)

While it might sound cliché, focusing on your breath has been shown to reduce performance anxiety in students. Taking deep, regular breaths reduces the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body and increases attention. Other calming techniques include counting down from ten, relaxing your muscles, and positive imagery.

Focus on what you know, not what you don’t

When faced with a tough question on a test, it can be easy to spiral into negative thinking. However, this can impact your performance on the rest of the test. Don’t stay on one question for too long. If it stumps you, move on to another question and come back to it.

Take advantage of breaks

Reset your mind during any breaks. Don’t discuss test questions because that will likely increase your stress (and is academically dishonest). Instead, stretch, stay hydrated, and maybe eat a light snack. Keeping your body relaxed and happy will help you focus on the next part of the test.

Go at your own pace

Everyone has their own speed when taking a test. If you see someone finish really early on, they might just be a fast test taker. That doesn’t mean you are falling behind. Similarly, if you finish before other people and have already checked your work, don’t feel obligated to use all the time given. This could lead you to overthink some of your answers and change them to incorrect ones.

Remember, you are more than your score

Some of your anxiety could stem from the importance of the test you are taking. Big standardized tests that go on your college application come with increased pressure. But remember, test scores are just one part of your academic career and don’t say anything about you as a person. So, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and rock that test!

What are some other microsteps you use to help you combat anxiety? Let us know in the comments below!