When you take an exam, all that should matter is that piece of paper in front of you. But what do you end up thinking about in addition to those questions you are reading? The other people in the class; how fast they’re writing, the way they’re sitting, the moment each one stands up all finished and ready to turn in their finished product. It’s human nature to be distracted by these things, but the nervous test-taking environment only accentuates it.
A major piece of advice that will help you work through your test with minimal stress is that you must learn to block out those fellow students. You have the rest of the day and the rest of the week, outside and inside school to pay attention to those people – now is not the time to be thinking about them. Every student is different when it comes to their test-taking abilities, so you cannot let their habits affect your own process. Some students can easily put their nerves on the back-burner and just race through a test without thinking twice. Some agonize over every single question and purposely use up every possible minute before the bell rings. Others anxiously tap their pencils against their desk, shake their feet, breathe loudly, or practice a multitude of other disrupting habits that could throw you off. You must put them out of your mind. You may also want to check out these tips on how to mentally prepare for test day.
Easier said than done? Well, in this case, it’s mostly about the preparation. Getting into the right mindset to ignore these classmates before you enter the test-taking zone is key. Tell yourself a few things as you make your way to the classroom:
No one is judging you – A common reason many students feel anxious while taking a test in a room full of students is because they fear being judged for not completing the exam as quickly as others. Logically, that doesn’t make sense if you really think about it. The students who are finishing their tests first are just happy and proud of themselves for completing it so fast. They are exiting that room or pulling out a book before you know it and have no worries about you. The students who are, in fact, overly-nervous and meticulously taking their time clearly have no concern for the way you are approaching the test. And finally, the students who are just anxiously looking around and zoning out, not really being able to focus on the test due to nerves, are more likely to be having the same worries you are and be more afraid of you judging them than having the time to judge you themselves. Here are some important habits of effective test takers that you may find useful as well.
Only you and your teacher deserve control over your grade – By soaking up your thoughts in the actions of the surrounding test-takers, you’re basically giving them power over your test score. Why should it matter if the guy next to you only needs ten minutes to finish the exam while you need the entire hour? If taking the entire hour means you’ll get an A, that’s all that matters – and even though that guy seems confident in his speedy test-taking skills, he may not end up doing so well. How would you feel later if the reason you got a poor grade was because you rushed through the test just to catch up to someone who ended up doing badly anyway? Don’t let his fast process change your careful one; he is not determining your final grade, you and your teacher are.
You have just as much power as they do – Remember, you are all in the same boat. Other test-takers may be just as easily intimidated by you as you are by them. You might get freaked out by that insanely quick person who turns in the exam right away, but maybe you’ll appear insanely quick to someone else who can barely finish the test in the allotted time. There is no sense in tormenting yourself over how well everyone else is doing when you are part of “everyone else” to another nervous student. It’s a vicious cycle that everyone just needs to let go of. No one test-taker has more influence over the class than anybody else. Stop assigning the power and just focus on you and your test.
Ready to let go of this unnecessary worry and take your test? Repeat these thoughts to yourself as you head into the classroom and those papers on your desk will be the only things you’ll see. You may also want to check out these test taking tips on how to review an exam before you take it.