Four tips on test taking

Reading Time: 3 minutes Midterms are here, and with them is stress. Here are some tips to help alleviate testing pressure and preserve your mental health during testing season.

An indiscernible person prepares for an exam.Reading Time: 3 minutes

According to the American Psychological Association, “[M]ore than 60% of college students” experienced at least one mental health problem during the school year of 2020-2021. Marissa Brown, a freshman at UVU, shared some of her anxieties with testing. “It’s sometimes like, no matter how hard I study, my mind goes blank. It’s not fun.”

Work-life balance can be tricky, and it becomes even harder to manage when major tests are on the schedule. To help alleviate some of this pressure, The Review has looked into research from medical professionals to create a short list of tips on test-taking strategies. Here are four tips to help reduce stress while testing or studying.

1-Keep calm by preparing

Panicking doesn’t help anyone. Keeping calm during a test is a great factor in performing well. “The effect of study preparation on test anxiety and performance,” published by Hasan Yusefadeh et. al within the National Library of Medicine, claims, “Students with high levels of test anxiety obtained lower scores than their low anxious peers.” 

It is recommended that students prepare well for their exams in order to reduce testing anxiety. The same article states, “Changing study habits, active learning, problem-solving training, and encouraging students to study with a work schedule can reduce test anxiety.” Preparing effectively for an exam can make it easier to manage related stressors and perform well in testing situations. 

2-Take a break

Meg Selig, a contributor for Psychology Today, defined a break as “a brief cessation of work, physical exertion, or activity.” Selig continued to explain that since the prefrontal cortex is used at high capacity during “think-work,” breaks are beneficial for a variety of health reasons, including improving physical and emotional health, preventing decision fatigue, restoring motivation, increasing productivity and creativity, and consolidating memories.

If you feel that a break is needed, take one. Selig recommends activities such as walking or exercise, connecting with nature, changing your environment, eating a healthy meal or snack, taking a power nap, breathing exercises, meditating, daydreaming, drawing or doodling, or drinking coffee or tea. If you cannot take a break, Selig recommends that you try to switch work activities to provide alternate relief.  

3-Pay attention to physical health

Taking care of your physical health via exercise and a good diet can lead to greater focus and improved mental health. According to Paul Reed, rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, “Mental health and physical health are closely connected. … [W]hat’s good for the body is often good for the mind.”

Take some time to determine any physical activities that you enjoy. Make separate lists of activities that require more time and those that require less. That way, when you are busy and unable to dedicate several hours to recreation, there are still ways you can help your body move and reset. Reed also recommends that “[F]or more ideas on how to get active — on any day — or for help finding the motivation to get started, check out this Move Your Way video [available on YouTube as “Move Your Way: Tips for Getting Motivated”].”

4-Focus on the positive

How you talk to yourself about the tasks at hand can have a huge influence on how you perceive your environment. The same is true for test-taking. Focusing on what is possible, as opposed to focusing on what is not, can be beneficial for students. According to Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today, “Scientific findings and empirical evidence continue to prove that you can use positive language to help you stay motivated and succeed any time you face a challenge in life or sport.”

With midterms coming and pressures rising, the last thing a student needs is to panic or compromise their mental or physical health. Following these tips may help mitigate those struggles and help you have a much more enjoyable university experience. 

For other testing tips, visit the websites of other universities such as University of South Florida, Utah State University, Southwestern University and Harvard University.