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Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety


Test anxiety is a big deal – it can play a huge role in thinking ability and performance. It can cause somebody to ‘blank out’ on tests, and can lead to racing thoughts that are difficult to control. It is also incredibly common for individuals who have ADHD. Yes, all students experience stress and anxiety when it comes to tests, but ADHD often adds another layer where there is a much higher risk of becoming overwhelmed by it.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in this situation before: You have a big test coming up, and the days leading up to it you’re a mess. You’re trying to cram three month’s worth of information into your tired brain, and it feels like too much for you to handle. Maybe you stay up all night studying. Maybe you give up. Either way, the day of the test you’re stressed. Here’s another layer: because you’re so stressed, you blank out in the middle of the test. This causes even more stress. All those questions you studied for are no longer coming to you, and you leave the test feeling totally discouraged (and exhausted).

Whew…even typing out that paragraph made me feel a little bit anxious. image

Knowing this, read on for some tips that can be tried before and during a test (or meeting, presentation, etc…) to help prevent and relieve some of that anxiety.

A few weeks before the test:

      • Schedule a practice test. As we’ve said before, ADHDers often split deadlines into two categories; now and not now. In order to get the brain engaged, a student with ADHD requires urgency, so schedule a practice exam with a friend or family member 1-2 weeks before the real test. This will mean you have to start studying sooner and leave yourself time to learn the stuff you missed. Having trouble getting started? Read on…
      • Create/join a study group. This is an awesome way to motivate you to study for the test and practice the material required for the test. Having accountability to the group can give you the extra push you need to focus.
      • Use practice tests. Students with ADHD often put off studying for a test because it seems overwhelming. Using sample tests or creating your own practice tests is a great way to take the fear and unknown out of what you’re studying for, and will also show you what you really know and what you still need to learn. Try to make it as fun as possible – studying doesn’t have to be completely boring.

The night before the test:

      • Plan to get to bed at a good time, and schedule exercise and ‘down time’ into your day. Remind yourself that this is essential in helping you maintain a reasonable level of stress going into your test.
      • Visualize the test going really well and feeling relaxed and confident. Even if you don’t feel it, sometimes you can trick your brain into feeling much more relaxed than you might be.

During the test:

      • Take slow deep breaths. This will be particularly important as the tests are being distributed, which is a prime time for anxiety.
      • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, STOP, put your pen down, and take five deep breaths. Sometimes that’s all is takes to regain focus and get back on track.
      • Take energy breaks. If your teacher lets you, grab a snack or walk to the bathroom. If you’re not allowed to get up, stop writing the test for a minute and stretch in your seat.
      • Don’t spend too much time on any one question. If you’re stuck, put a mark on the page and move on. Come back to it when you’re done with the rest of the test.

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