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Reduce Exam Anxiety

Gregory LloydTen Steps to Taking Exams with Confidence

by Gregory Lloyd

Terrified of taking tests? Does your stomach tie up in knots? Does your mind go blank? You're not alone. Many adults hesitate to go back to college because they know there will be lots of tests, and they find it difficult to face up to the challenge. It's perfectly normal to feel that way. However, you can overcome your fear and look forward to tests with complete confidence.

That's right. Whether you take classes on campus, through independent study, or online, if you follow these ten steps you'll find that exams are not such a huge obstacle after all.

When Studying

1. Take organized notes.
Most students wait until the end of the semester to start their review. Generally, they read and re-read their class notes word for word or go back through their textbooks. This can be tedious, time consuming, and not very effective. Try this instead. Begin preparing for your exams the day you receive your course materials by reviewing the syllabus and scanning the textbook. This will help you get a feel for what will be covered so you don't get any surprises.

As you're reading your text and preparing your assignments each week, focus on topics that are unfamiliar to you. Are certain points repeated or explained more thoroughly than others? Highlight or underline only the key words and phrases related to these points--not entire sentences. Also keep an eye out for definitions, formulas, lists, and items that are prominently featured.

After you've finished each assignment, grab your notebook and outline the points you've learned (main points followed by supporting points in words and phrases). Include examples to help you better retain the information. Leave plenty of white space so that you can add notes later--either from class or from later readings that pertain to the topics you've outlined. Your aim is to keep notes on similar topics in a logical sequence and avoid any duplication. If you have extra time, type your notes on a computer to make them easy to read and reorganize if needed.

If you don't understand something, get help before you move on. Lessons tend to build on one another, so you need to grasp the foundation material first. If there's a topic that's giving you trouble, talk to your professor or research the topic further at the library or on the Internet.

2. Transfer some of your notes to flash cards.
Studying in short time spurts is much more effective than reviewing in marathon sessions. Make up a set of 3x5 index cards for terms and concepts you have difficulty remembering. Include the term or concept on one side and the definition or description on the other. Keep adding cards as your course progresses and take them with you wherever you go. Then, whenever you have a few minutes, pull out your cards and test yourself on them in random order. Study actively by asking yourself questions on the material you don't know well.

As soon as you can, determine what type of test will be given. Multiple choice, true or false, fill-in-the-blank, and essay are the most common. (Most standardized tests are multiple choice.) If there's a practice test available, take it without referring back to your notes. Mark the questions you have difficulty with so that you know what areas you need to review more thoroughly.


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