It's the day of the test. You've prepared and prepared and prepared all you can. You've bought the latest test prep guide, gone over hundreds of vocabulary flashcards, spent countless hours working with a private tutor, and taken practice test after practice test.
All of this preparation and your confidence should be through the roof right?
Taking a practice test in your home or in a familiar classroom may have prepared you for the subject matter and testing strategies for your test. Whether it's the SAT, ACT, the MCAT, LSAT or even just a regular high school or college exam, doing practice tests will not prepare you for the pressure of having one shot to get the highest score possible.
You may be thinking about pressure from your parents, how your performance will affect your chances of getting into your dream school, or you may just have performance anxiety and don't like to feel the pressure.
It's okay, and this is normal. So many students do so much studying of the subject matter on a test, but they are seriously unprepared for the sweaty hands, elevated heart rate, and racing thoughts that appear while they take the actual test.
Luckily, there is an easy way to remedy this, and I'm going to share a few exercises you can use both before the test and during the test to make sure you are calm, loose, and relaxed both mentally and physically.
One of the reasons you are probably so stressed is that you aren't breathing properly.
Most people breathe high up in their chest and don't use their diaphragm. When this breathing pattern is used, only around 50% of their full lung volume is being used, leaving valuable oxygen on the table.
You walk into the test and suddenly your heart rate increases a bit, but because you don't know how to breathe correctly your lungs can't keep up with the increase in bloodflow. You start to panic and your heart beats even faster. This leads to hyperventilation and can result in some serious anxiety issues, maybe even a panic attack.
The remedy to this is breathing with your belly instead of high up in your chest. By breathing deep down in your belly you access the full volume of your lungs and also use your diaphragm. The diaphragm is one of the most powerful and important muscles in your entire body, and with practice can be used to alter breathing and increase or decrease your heart rate at will.
This isn't something that's terribly difficult to do, and if you practice it, it can have unbelievable benefits not only to your ability to combat test anxiety, but breathe fully and enjoy life more.
Here's a quick video that will show you how to belly breathe properly:
The best way to use belly breathing for test anxiety is to:
1. Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and practice belly breathing before your test.
2. Whenever you run into a difficult question on your test or experience anxiety, take a break from the test and take 4 or 5 belly breaths. This will not only help you physically by opening up your lungs and circulatory system, but also mentally by taking your attention off of the anxiety symptoms that are bothering you.