Tips for Tackling Test Anxiety: An Interview with Noodle Pro, Jonathan Arak

29 October, 2020

Right before it's time to take an important test, are you immediately overcome by fear of failure?  Do you find yourself having negative thoughts and maybe even experiencing physical symptoms?  You are not alone.  Test-taking can evoke these feelings and symptoms and sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the causes of test anxiety. Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in test-taking situations. While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance. Test anxiety is characterized as a type of performance anxiety. Individuals who experience test anxiety report symptoms of test anxiety as having difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, dry mouth, cognitive symptoms, and sometimes even panic attacks.

There are lots of things we can do to try to ease test anxiety.  A good night's sleep and carefully planned preparation (and avoiding cramming at the last minute!) can certainly help us to feel better on the day of the test. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can also be helpful when students experience negative thoughts associated with test-taking.

I sat down with Noodle Pro, Jonanthan Arak, to get his take on the best ways to combat test anxiety.  We know that getting enough sleep and practicing good study skills and study habits is helpful, but I wanted to hear about the specific techniques he recommends to his students for managing test anxiety both before the test and during the test.

#Before the Test

First, Jonathan suggests that students complete 4 practice tests with a full SAT or ACT prep. Try to take as many of those practice tests as possible with other people around so that you can get used to what a real test-taking situation will feel like on the day of the test.  This is especially important if you get distracted easily by others who might seem to be moving faster than you or are tapping their pen/pencil.

Jonathan recommends practicing for a test by getting yourself familiar with your pacing. As you are doing practice problems or a practice test, you should note the time it takes.  Jonathan says that many students will find that their pacing is just fine and perhaps not something they need to stress about.

In order to calm test anxiety, or even general anxiety, Jonathan recommends using the Calm App or going to Yoga.  He also highlights the importance of getting past any historical issues that may cause negative self-talk or emotional symptoms.  For example, just because you may have had a bad experience in 7th-grade math does not mean you are "bad at math".  Get rid of any thoughts like this by using positive affirmations and deep breaths. "I am good at Math! I’ve got this! Just do it!"

#During the Test

When you arrive at your testing site, Jonathan recommends trying to sit closer to the front of the room, near the proctor.  This will make it easier to alert the proctor to a distraction or for the proctor to take notice of a distraction on their own and put a stop to it.  Sitting in front of the room is also especially useful for students who tend to have test anxiety when comparing their pace to the pace of others.

During the test, if you find yourself finishing early, Jonathan encourages giving yourself an extra mini-break.  You can take a bathroom break or simply do some deep breathing before moving on to the next section.

Sometimes during the test, we stumble upon a question that really stumps us.  We may get extremely frustrated by the question and ultimately decide to skip it and move on.  The trouble is, we often bring our frustration along with us to the next question.  Instead, Jonathan recommends taking three deep breaths and going to your happy place. Your happy place can be a beach, a mountain top or anywhere else that brings you happiness-- but be sure to make it specific. Reset. Stay centered and grounded.

No matter which of these test-taking strategies you find helpful, utilizing some type of technique to ease test-taking anxiety is necessary.  Most importantly, remember that no test or test score will ever determine your self-worth.

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