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Adjusting to college life and test anxiety

  1. Jan 24, 2014 #1
    So Thursday we had our first big test in class. I had managed to ace everything in the homework leading up to the test. I got cocky, and then I ended up bombing the test. I rushed through the test and completed it in about half the time I should have. The teacher offers a review with each student after the test to go over missed problems - but I didn't write down a lot of my work so there wasn't much to discuss. I learned a lot from this test. I got anxious and rushed, I didn't want to run out of time. I know others here have experinced text anxiety - how do you cope with it? I also should have studied more. Doing well on the homework does not mean everything. But, other than homework how do you study for a math class? I could make up problems, but there is no way of knowing if my answer is absolutely correct. It has been a number of years since I graduated High School and this is my first semester of college. Adjusting back is going to take some effort.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2014 #2

    Stephen Tashi

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    For most classes, you can find other books and materials that have problems and answers. (e.g. online handouts where a teacher has given solutions to a test). If you have extreme anxiety, the problem is going to be spending an adequate amount of time solving the problem before you peek at the answer.
  4. Jan 24, 2014 #3
    One thing that really helps me calm my nerves during a test is to go through it methodically. I do this by:

    1. Assuming that I am an average or above average student with regards to time required to take the test. Therefore, I do not have to worrry about time as longa s I go at my own (typical) pace. But I always like to look up at the clock for my own assurance and because not doing so would just be silly.

    2. I place my answer paper over the the test paper. I only focus on that single question! One question at a time!! Then I slide the paper down to the next question and only focus on that and so forth...

    3. I never look at the whole paper (unless there is a "answer x of y. (y > x)" situation.) The reason I do this is because if I see a question (even a glance) that I don't know how to answer immediately then I just freak out.
  5. Jan 24, 2014 #4


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    Why did you not go over your answers if you finished in half the time? That would have meant you had half the time to go back over each of your answers and expand or correct issues. Never turn your test in early, that is just plain stupid.

    It isn’t a race, 5 wholly correct answers are better than 6 total half assed answers; do as many problems are you possibly can, skipping those that aren’t coming to you right away. If there is time go back and work through those you didn’t get right away. Save 10-15 minutes to go through each of your answers looking for trivial mistakes like sign errors and quickly check your work.

    There is no reason to be stressed about a test— if you know it you know it, if you don’t you don’t. There’s nothing you can do about that at test time, and it’s just a class.
  6. Jan 24, 2014 #5


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    Exam anxiety can be a real tough obstacle to overcome. At it's root, I believe, is the stress that comes from feeling the pressure to do well in an unpredictable situation for which you do not feel prepared.

    You can reduce that stress by attacking all elements of the problem.

    First is the pressure to do well. Of course you want to do well, but sometimes it can help to set specific and realistic goals for yourself. This gives you something tangible to aim for rather than the unrealistic "being perfect." The most obvious example here is aiming for a certain grade, but that doesn't always have to be the only goal. Maybe you want to master a certain skill. Once you have a specific goal you can develop a plan for moving towards it. This helps to reduce your stress because it puts a little more control over the situation in your hands.

    Second is the unpredictability of the situation. One big tip here is to look up the exams from previous years. Libraries usually archive these. You can usually find examples online as well. I usually tried to work my way through at least one or two "sample" exams prior to writing the exam. If you do enough of them, you begin to see patterns in the questions. The specific parameters will of course change year to year and occasionally the professor will insert something completely new, but if you can comfortably answer all of the problems on the last three exams, you're not likely to be too tripped up when you write the current one.

    Another approach to this is to ask yourself what questions you would put on the exam if you had to make it up as a professor. You know what time frame the students will have. You know what's been covered and you likely want to cover as much of the syllabus as you can.

    Finally that last point - feeling unprepared - has no "secret" solution. You reduce that element of anxiety by preparing. Organizing your time helps in this regard. Knowing that you've put in a certain amount of hours into preparing for an exam can boost your confidence. And if you're not seeing the results you want, try increasing this. One trick I used to do was to keep all of my study notes and then the last thing I would do before going to an exam was to count the pages. This helped calm my nerves because it was a tangible reminder of the work I had put in to prepare for the exam.
  7. Jan 28, 2014 #6
    Thank you for all the replies! I will take this advice to heart.
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