Minimizing Test Anxiety

Just a few notes on optimizing test-taking performance minimizing test anxiety

Study. First of all, nothing will replace knowing as much as possible of the material that will be covered on the test and having all the information possible planted firmly in memory. Test anxiety can keep you from remembering information you know and eliminating test anxiety will make remembering much easier. Getting past test anxiety, though, does not in and of itself put any information into your brain.

If you’re anxious about your test-taking performance because you really haven’t studied or prepared, you’re anxiety may be reality based. No matter how relaxed and confident you are, it can only facilitate what you know and what native abilities you have. Calm, cool and confident are not substitutes for knowledge that might have come with some study.

Using hypnosis to deal with test anxiety can help reduce anxiousness, increase focus and confidence with regard to both studying for a test and with regard to the test-taking situation, itself.

When and no cramming. Hypnosis tapes/CDs can help, but — as with studying — hypnosis is not for “cramming.” You shouldn’t need to use hypnosis the day of or the day before a test to get results. Hypnosis tends to have effects that are not diminished with days or even weeks time intervening — as long as there are not interfering factors during that period between hypnosis and the test taking experience. That is, you can experience hypnosis three weeks before a test and if it is effective hypnosis which has implanted suggestions that are practical and effective and likely to work the day after the hypnosis, they will work weeks after the hypnosis. If the listener takes three tests drunk and high on pot in those weeks, and fails three tests, then the effects of the hypnosis are likely to be wiped out and not to be expected to work. If the hypnosis suggestions are very tricky and not based on logical, practical thinking, they also may not be as lasting in efficacy for long periods of time. However, hypnosis effects that are based on realistic observations and ideas — which is probably most hypnosis done by anyone trained and experienced in using hypnosis — can have very lasting effects.

If you haven’t had experience with a particular hypnosis style and “hypnotist,” it’s probably wisest to “test” out your response to a hypnosis tape or session with a hypnotherapist at least a couple of two weeks before a test you are preparing for. Some individuals need a listening or two (or several) to get used to the listening experience sufficiently to relax and let it really happen. It is not uncommon for many people to find that they get frequent itches, need to frequently clear their throat or change position — or just feel very distracted and uncomfortable — or they find they can’t stop coughing — or in mid session, they have a strong urge to go to the bathroom. This is the mind making sure it’s in charge of it’s experience — a normal reaction to the idea of having your thoughts tampered with, even in the most trusting of circumstances. All of these interruptions are normal and not a problem unless you decide they are. It is generally best to allow yourself to patiently get used to hypnosis and not get frustrated if this seems to need to happen for a few listenings. Note: This all happens to differing degrees. If you want to clear your throat or scratch an itch or change position, just do so in the assurance that making yourself more comfortable will deepen the trance and the focus and the results. If you must stop to go to the bathroom, though, this will make subsequent listening easier but you should expect to start at the beginning when you have taken care of your bathroom break.

How often does it take? People are different. Sometimes days are different for the same person. So there is a lo of variability in life as to how a thing might work. However, for many people, if not almost most (AFTER REALLY RELAXING WITH THE IDEA OF HYPNOSIS — that is, after you it is possible to let go and relax and not be interrupted by unstoppable coughing or urges to go to the bathroom in mid session), one session or listening to a hypnosis tape or CD can have sufficient effect to get you through all the little hurdles of a test without any difficulty at all. Two or three sessions or two or three listenings over a four or five day period during the three weeks before a test and then one or two sessions/listenings in the week prior, is likely to solidify suggestions and changes in thinking and will provide as much help as hypnosis is likely to impart. Again, DON’T CRAM. Listening and then relistening to a hypnosis tape — or visiting several hypnotists — on the day before a test — or on any particular day whatsoever, will NOT help.

Just test-taking effects? Study? Hypnosis that helps you relax about taking a test will also tend to facilitate studying. It won’t MAKE you study or make you have a hard time picking between whether you like studying better than winning the lottery. However, it will tend to reduce study avoidance because it isn’t as hard to study for a test when you think you actually might do very well (compared to studying for a test you are certain you will fail regardless of study).

Will I need to use hypnosis for every test forever? As with all other forms of performance anxiety, it isn’t likely that you will feel anywhere near as anxious about your performance after a few successes. With a success or two at studying for and taking a test, most undue anxiousness will evaporate. Years later on an entirely different test, if you suddenly have another failure experience, you might afterward — on the next test — feel a recurrence of doubts and anxiousness. The good news, then, is that this test-anxiety thing is pretty easy to stop. The bad news is that this can recurr if you have a shocking failure in the future some time. The good news, though, is that once you figure out how to deal with test anxiety, it’s WAY easier to find yourself experiencing it. And the extra good news is that once you get through tests and get out of school (all the way out), it is very rare that you ever have to take a test again.

Normal, adaptive and the complexity of life. Some degree of anxiousness is an appropriate and natural part of any moderately important challenge in life. It’s important to understand that too little anxiety results in poor functioning just like too much anxiety does. Too little anxiety and you don’t get out of bed in the morning and you don’t bother studying. Too much and you don’t get out of the bed in the morning and you don’t bother studying. Thus the trick to handling anxiousness is to have ways to increase your own anxiety if you find performance is poor because you have too little anxiety, and to have ways to decrease your anxiety if you find performance is poor because you have too much anxiety.

For struggles with study and test-taking in college, check out the college success strategies article for information on college test studying and test-taking strategies.

TAKE NOTE: In self-helping it’s important to tell helpful from hurt. It’s important to give yourself permission to consult a professional if you need one. Just as its important to get to a doctor if you’re severely injured, and in borderline cases of injury it’s better to waste the time it takes to go see a doctor than risk that you should have — and just as one should not goof around with bandaids when an artery is gushing — it’s important to consult a psychologist, psychiatrist or other counselor or physician -type professional if you believe you might, in fact, need one. Better safe and not sorry — a stitch in time saves nine. If it turns out its a false alarm, the professional will tell you. You might take a look at the comments on finding a therapist for some tips.