De-Stress for That Test: A Before and After Guide

Here’s what to do to stay cool, calm, and collected for Test Day.

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Before the test:
You've done the studying, but you're still jittery. Nervousness can potentially distract you prior to — and even during — a test. What can you do to ensure that you're confident when you sit down and raise your pencil? Read on.

 

1. Pace Yourself

Don't wait until the last minute to study. Cramming before a test rarely yields good results because you can't fully absorb the information into your brain. At the same time, you don't necessarily want to study too early and then forget everything. Instead, find a happy medium: once the test date is assigned, set a timetable for reviewing material, even if at first it's only for 15 minutes a night.

As the big day nears, spend more time on the parts that confuse you. Pacing yourself allows you to take your time, relax, learn the material, and most importantly, ask the teacher ahead of time if something isn't completely clear to you. If you set a steady pace for studying, you'll be good to go.

2. Exercise

Get all that excess energy out when you're nervous! You can't spend every waking minute exercising your brain or you'll burn out. So why not exercise your body for a while? Take a bike ride to a study buddy's house, go for a jog, or play a game of basketball with your big brother. If you don't feel comfortable taking that much time away from studying, just stand in the middle of your room and do jumping jacks for 5 minutes. You'll feel exhilarated and ready to dive back into your notes.

3. Pre-pack Everything

Don't go into a test unprepared. The night before, pack extra pencils and pens, paper, and make sure the textbook, novel, or calculator that relates to the material is zipped in your backpack. You don't want the added stress of realizing you forgot something crucial immediately before the test starts.

4. Meditate

Like exercise, mediation can be a great way to clear your mind. It doesn't matter if you have no idea how to do it — you don't even have to bend your body like a pretzel or chant! Simply take a break for about 20 minutes and sit somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes and let your mind wander. Think about your friends, your favorite television show, what you want to do over the weekend, anything that makes you happy, or even nothing at all. A quick meditation will leave you refreshed and more confident about your studying.

5. Review Your Notes

Get to class a few minutes early on the test day, so you can review your notes. If you've been pacing yourself, everything should be familiar. In fact, you'll probably know all the answers!

 

After the test:
Congratulations, the test is over! Unfortunately for some, the stress doesn't automatically disappear once you hand in your exam — you want to know how you did, what you got right, what you got wrong. How can you be calm until you get your grade back? Here are some ideas.

1. Exhale!

Take a deep breath in, and let it out. You've survived the test, and it probably wasn't even that bad. Be sure to acknowledge that you did it, it's over, and now you have the freedom to concentrate on other things. Whew!

2. Reward Yourself

After all, you deserve it! Go get an ice cream cone, buy the CD you've been saving up for, or take a break from homework to watch a movie. You've been working hard, so treat yourself.

3. Hang Out

Unless you were studying together, chances are you didn't get to really hang out with your friends much prior to the test. Now you can de-stress with your buddies and get back to normal. Have fun!

4. Put Your Notes Away

Resist the urge to obsess over your notes when the test is over. While it's definitely okay to check your answers, try not to relive the test in your mind. That might just add unnecessary stress to waiting for the results. Look over your notes or a textbook quickly to see if you got that borderline question correct, and then store those notes until you get the test back.

5. Believe in Yourself

Always think positive — after all, you won't know otherwise until your teacher hands back the test. So sit back and keep telling yourself that you worked hard, you know the material, and you were well prepared. With that combination, the results should be just fine. And what to do if you know you did your best to prepare, but the grade doesn't reflect your hard work? Think of that test as a way to see what you need more help with rather than a judgment on how smart you are. Maybe you need to look at the way you're studying, or ask for help in certain areas. Keep everything in perspective: one bad grade is not the end of the world.

  • Subjects:
    Homework and Tests, Test Preparation
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