Have you ever found you scored poorly on an exam, but were completely surprised, because you thought you knew the information?
In similar cases students have reported that they:
Studied for many hours
Read over all their notes
Listened in class
So, why are they not doing well on exams? The answer is they really don’t know the information. Yes, they understand it as the read their notes, but they are not retaining the information. Fluency is when you feel like you know the information, and any additional study won’t help. However, this is a false sense of security. The student can’t apply, recall, or explain the material on an exam. This experience is very frustrating, and as a result, many students withdraw or have poor grades.
One of the most common mistakes students make is reading over their notes. Other study habits that lead to the fluency illusion include:
Reading over chapter outlines given by the instructor
Skimming or reading a chapter
So, how do you take learning to the next level? The remedy is to learn the material at the highest level of learning. This includes being able to apply, compare and contrast, and analyze information.
Other learning strategies include:
Hand write notes in your own words, speaking out loud to yourself
Teach it to someone else
Pretend you are an expert and give a summary
Create exam questions and answers in essay format
Connect information through previous experiences
Connect new information through examples
Research more to learn why it is important
Be able to draw and label parts from memory
Work in study groups and discuss information together
Test anxiety is a physiological experience with memory loss, negative thoughts, stress, and worry during or before a test. It can come from past failures, low self-confidence, a negative attitude, or a lack of preparation.
The first step to reducing test anxiety is to evaluate your attitude, level of commitment, and feeling of control. Realize that tests do not have power over you, and do not define you. They are not a measure of your intelligence, creativity, or self-worth. Tests are just a measure of how you performed in one day. They cannot hold you back from reaching your goals.
Test anxiety can lead to:
Blanking on a test
Dropping the course
Avoidance of work
Racing, negative thoughts
Strategies to Overcome Test Anxiety
Belly breathing reverses the effects of adrenaline. Take deep breaths in your nose and out of your mouth.
Create control and increase preparation through improving study and test taking skills.
Focus on your proven strengths and traits: To fight against self-doubt, list your proven personal traits and strengths to boost confidence.
Visualization and guided relaxation: Before the test, envision yourself answering questions correctly with confidence. Visualize a situation you find challenging and successful. Then, switch your mental image to the testing room and imagine yourself feeling the same way. Counteract the negative by visualizing positive feeling and thoughts. Think of an activity or place that makes you feel motivated and excited. Overlay those emotions and thoughts to studying, answering questions, entering the testing room, and completing the exam.
Reduce new stressors: If you are taking the exam in an unfamiliar place, visit the room in advance.
Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety. Get your heartrate up before going to the test.
Positive self-talk: “You are safe. You are smart. You have special gifts. You are accepted. You are going to reach your goals. Just focus on doing one thing at a time.”
Focus on the task at hand and not the anxiety: “All I can do is my very best, and that is all I can do.” Focus on what is the most important thing to do right now, and do one thing at a time.
Writing about how you feel right before and exam. Take 10 minutes to write what is causing the fear, emotion, and worry. By writing worries down it clears the mind, and allows you to focus on the task at hand (Ramire and Beilock, 2011).
Writing prompts include:
What are you feeling due to test anxiety?
What negative thoughts are you having?
Are you concerned about not being prepared?
What distractions are keeping you from performing on this test?
Do you worry about what other’s are thinking about you?
Are you worried about the future and how this grade will impact it?
Some students that experience ongoing anxiety are more prone to test anxiety. HCC students can see Counseling Services for additional support or assistance.
Test anxiety can be measured by the Westside Scale in 10 minutes. This test can give you a benchmark for how severe your anxiety is.
Ramirez, G. & Beilock, S. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom. Science. Vol. 331, January 14, 2011, pp. 211--‐213.
Things to do to prepare include:
Make your testing appointment ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute. You want a time and date that works for you. You don’t want to be stressed or rushed.
Know your testing instructions ahead of time.
Know your instructor's name, class number, and section number.
Read the testing instructions. VERY IMPORTANT!
Remember to bring your ID and leave your books and phone in the car if possible.
BE PREPARED with the items you can use on your exam.
ARRIVE EARLY. This will give you time to use the restroom and relax a little bit before going in to the test.
BE CONFIDENT & POSITIVE.
Make sure you go to the bathroom ahead of time.
Eat a balanced meal and get plenty of rest.
Deep breathing is the best way to relax. Also, positive self-talk will reduce thinking that could increase test anxiety.
This is one of the most critical steps in the learning process. Reflecting back on how you studied, and whether or not it was effective, as well as determining what strategies you need to change for next time is critical in the learning process. Learn from the tests by recognizing patterns from the instructor. Instructors typically have a testing style you learn and use for the next exam.
Questions of self-reflection include:
What can I do better next time?
What is my current grade?
What is my greatest challenge to success in the course?