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Whether you’re taking a written test or sweating through an important dental assisting exam, we all have text anxiety. For some, it may be just a small case of the jitters or a feeling of nervousness right before the exam. For others, however, test anxiety can cause extreme feelings of nausea and dread, even when they know the material perfectly. If your test anxiety is bad enough, it can affect how well you do on your exam.

Your test anxiety may come from a fear of failure, or from not feeling prepared. It could be that you’ve had a negative test experience in the past that causes you to become anxious before every test now. If you have test anxiety, you likely have excessive worry before taking a test, and you may feel physical symptoms such as nausea, headache, sweaty palms or dizziness. Test anxiety can also cause your mind to go blank during a test, even if you knew every answer five minutes before the test.

There are ways you can help combat test anxiety. Give yourself the best possible chance on your next test and follow these tips to tackle test anxiety:

• Plan Ahead – With any test, you know that studying is the key to knowing the material on test day. But after you’ve mastered the information, there are other ways you can prepare for test day, including going to bed early for a good night’s sleep, planning your route to the testing facility, giving yourself extra time to arrive on test day, and making sure to eat a good meal or snack before the test.  

• Use Smart Strategies – Give yourself plenty of time to learn the material and try to avoid cramming or staying up late the night before a test to memorize facts. On the day of the test, read all the directions carefully to avoid any mix-ups. Have a strategy for test taking: Go through the test and answer all the questions you know for sure, then go back through a second time and answer the ones that require more thought.

• Relax Your Mind – Practice deep breathing exercises and progressive relaxation of your muscles to help promote a relaxed, calm demeanor before test taking. You can even to do a short meditation before you start the test. Simply close your eyes and visualize yourself answering the questions correctly completing the test successfully. Or, picture yourself somewhere that makes you feel happy and calm—such as the ocean. When you purposefully relax your mind, anxious thoughts melt away and you’ll be in a better place to take your test.

• Give Yourself a Pep Talk – Develop a test-taking mantra and repeat it to yourself while you study and again before and during your test. Make it something simple and easy to remember, such as “I will succeed!” or “A-grade all the Way.” Notice how just giving yourself a positive message can be empowering and help you overcome the negativity of anxiety.

• Stay Focused – Remember what your parents told you when you were small and came to them with a tattle-tale: “Worry about yourself.” If other students finish quickly, that can make you nervous if you’ve barely started. Prepare yourself to completely Ignore everyone else in the testing room and focus on your own test and pace.

Follow these tips to put your best test skills forward.