Posted by Julia Wasson

Sep 30, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Even though your child has thoroughly prepared for college entrance exams, has he or she focused on strategies for combating test anxiety?

Test-taking anxiety is problematic if your teen’s nervousness or overwhelming worry prevents him from performing well on a test. Test anxiety may include one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Inability to sleep
  • Nausea
  • “Butterflies” in the stomach

The following tips are proven practices for reducing test anxiety:

Tip #1: Over-prepare for the ACT or PSAT/SAT test.

Test-taking anxiety is often a result of feeling ill prepared. Test prep classes provide test-taking strategies, which help students understand how their abilities are being assessed on college entrance exams. Test preparation, in turn, builds your child’s confidence, and confidence is the most important coping mechanism for test anxiety.

Attending college prep classes or taking a PSAT/SAT or ACT practice test are great tools for reducing test anxiety.

Tip #2: Practice relaxation techniques to stay calm and focused.

Negative thoughts are a common culprit of test anxiety. Help your child identify when he or she is having negative thoughts about taking college entrance exams. Breathing techniques help to calm the mind, while imagining a positive outcome helps reinforce confidence.

Your child might even want to repeat this simple mantra when feeling text anxiety come on: “I am well prepared. I can do this.”

Tip #3: Forget burning the midnight oil.

All-nighters are out of the question when working toward reducing test anxiety. Frantic cram sessions don’t commonly result in great test scores. A sleep-deprived test-taker is zapped of energy as well as the ability to stay focused and concentrate for long periods of time. Focusing on the present moment and the task at hand, rather than imagining the future or reliving the past, also can help calm the mind in a testing situation.

Your child needs to be rested on test day so she feels refreshed, clear-headed, and ready to rock the exams. Exercise during the day promotes a good night’s rest, so encourage your child to be active the day before the test.

Tip #4: Have a little fun with test prep.

It’s fairly easy to get caught up in the challenges of the college application process. During this lengthy process of applying to colleges and universities, create milestones and reward your child for making progress. These rewards do not have to be monetary to be effective. Celebrate milestones like attending a test-prep class or completing a practice test by going out for ice cream, working on a creative project together, or watching a favorite movie together during a relaxing, rainy afternoon.

While it’s common for students to feel nervous before a test, it’s important to keep test anxiety under control. If not, the effects of too much stress and worry will negatively impact your child’s ability to score his or her personal best on those important college entrance exams.

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