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Articles / Preparing for College / How to Prevent Online Test Anxiety

Nov. 17, 2020

How to Prevent Online Test Anxiety

How to Prevent Online Test Anxiety

Patrick Amoy/Unsplash

It's normal to have a case of the nerves before a test, but the test anxiety you typically feel can be heightened when it comes to a new format. As a result of COVID-19, you may find yourself in the unusual circumstance of taking online exams for the first time. To help manage your anxiety and perform your best, check out these five preventative steps.

Develop a Study Plan

Test anxiety most often comes from being unprepared, so don't put yourself in a position where you have to pull an all-nighter or cram for an entire weekend. Not only is this a poor way to learn content, it's also a way to exacerbate your nerves. Instead, work on developing good study habits. A great starting point is actively engaging in class. Pay attention during lectures, find a notetaking system that works for you, and ask questions if you're confused! Building a learning routine into your system will keep your anxiety at bay. If you have to prepare for a particularly important test, like a midterm, the SAT, or ACT, it's essential to give yourself enough time to adequately review. The more confident you are with the material, the less stressed you'll be on test day.

Rest Up

You're going to need energy to tackle these tests, so get to bed early. Being well-rested on exam day can help you concentrate better. For teenagers, that means getting eight to 10 hours of sleep. If you're struggling with your sleep schedule, make room for a little bit of exercise every day to help you sleep better and manage your anxiety.

Practice and Execute a Test-Day Routine

A new testing environment means establishing a new test day routine. Treat your test differently than you do your regular school routine — just as you would if you were going to a testing center or taking an in-class exam. Following any rules provided to you for your workspace, make sure you have everything you need. Clear your desk of distractions, pick up some pencils and scrap paper, have a way of tracking your time, double-check your internet connection and video feed, and get comfortable.

You're undoubtedly traveling a shorter distance to get to the test, so give your brain a chance to catch up and build in some settling down time to center yourself, adjust for the exam and focus. Here are some things that other students have described working for them, and which you might try out:

  • a breathing routine
  • a moment of meditation
  • a pre-testing dance break
In short, do whatever you need to do to shake out your nerves. Having an individualized game plan will improve your ability to manage any anxiety that arises on test day.

Plan Your Pep Talk

Many people find it easy to give in to negative self-talk, particularly in high stress situations. Banish these thoughts from your mind! You are much more than a test (and your college applications reflect that!), so come up with some mantras to focus on positive thoughts. Tell yourself "I've studied hard and have done my best to prepare," instead of "There's no way I'll do well." While it's important to take your tests seriously, remember that an exam will not define your worth or ability to succeed in life.

Work out Accommodations

Always ask for support if you need it. The strategies above will help curb many forms of test anxiety, but if your case is more severe, reach out to a teacher, school counselor or test coordinator for appropriate accommodations. Additionally, if the online testing format or remote setup is a challenge for you, let someone know. There is no shame in seeking assistance, and you are your best advocate! Speak up and see what options are available to you.

Written by

Rob Franek

Rob Franek

College Admissions and Test Prep Expert

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