Nine Mental Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety

To overcome your irrational fears and lower your test anxiety before and during an exam, employ nine mental strategies. Develop regular study habits that are effective. You will need to prepare properly in advance, so you can be confident with only limited amounts of fear to wrack your nerves come the exam.

Nine Mental Strategies:

  1. Buy the best book(s) online for study strategy. Check the reviews on Amazon or consult peers who have self-studied for the TOEFL and ask them what text they recommend beforehand.
  2. Prepare many months in advance of taking the TOEFL exam so that you have a lot of time to progress and integrate your techniques for taking a test.
  3. Organize a plan of attack to study efficiently making the best use of your available time. Set a realistic goal. Daily study sessions even if short are known to be more effective over time than longer study hours only once per week.
  4. Get a TOEFL instructor to help you stay inspired, otherwise, you may go off track and not reach your necessary goals in your time frame.
  5. Practice your TOEFL study in an orderly area with well-organized study preparation materials. Select an area which is comfortable and suitable to concentrate with minimal distractions.
  6. Identify what your weak points are and dedicate extra time to strengthen your weaknesses while keeping your strong points solid.
  7. Do English reading, listening online, speaking practice recording your voice over your phone, and writing as much as possible daily to improve your fluency and interaction with the language.
  8. Start a vocabulary notebook by writing down words you hear listening online and reading in articles that you are not familiar with. If you are taking practice exams or doing simulation activities, write down new words you come across on index cards with an English definition on one side and a sentence with the word in context on the other side. Review these daily.
  9. Get an online study group or a native-speaking professional for feedback to meet weekly with to plan your strategies and practice your skills so you will develop at a constant rate.

Identify causes of anxiety to deal with test stress

In order to deal with anxiety on any exam, in particular a TOEFL test, first think about whether your stress is a “truth” or a “lie.” If, for instance, you have not studied for the test, the fear may be a truth. However, if in your head you are feeling worried and your nerves are tense since you do not feel ready or prepared even though you studied a preparation course or prepared in advance, this kind of stress anxiousness is a lie and not logical, but emotional. Focus on reducing your worried thoughts by telling yourself positive self-talk such as “I’m succeeding on the exam. I am ready. I will do the best I can since I studied. When you have managed your time to prepare yourself well beforehand, carefully let go of the emotional lies that fill your mind, and replace those with a truth of confidence before entering the exam.

Anxiousness before a test is when a student thinks about the test before the day of the test; this kind of anxiety is a worry of anticipation. Other students lose their nerves (possibly for good cause) during the actual exam, and that is known as situation stress. Whether the test anxiety comes before or during the test, it can be attributed to either organizational, mental, or behavioral habits.  First, there are students who do not know how to effectively be organized and use time wisely or study in an orderly fashion, so they do not develop their confidence of organizing their study. Next, some students may not have confidence if mentally they are blocked. Let’s say they failed other tests in the past or they had poor test-taking experiences previously, it will affect their way of thinking. They may have a great fear of failing. They may also have negative chatter in their head, which is a voice telling them they will not succeed. It will cause them to worry about the exam process, questions, and results, and it will bring an immensely strong pressure to worry about performing on a test. Lastly, there are other students who do not study enough in advance because they are busy with other things; perhaps they lack of materials or procrastinate, or they form poor study groups, have non-motivational friends, lack sleep, or lack proper food nutrition for the brain. All of these can affect behavior. Once you know where your anxiety comes from—either from poor organization, poor mental strength, or poor behavior— then you can begin to tackle how to reduce your worry before and during an exam.