Beat Test Anxiety with a Plan








Are you in a time crunch? Do you feel stressed out or are you in a bind?

If you have a couple days before your TOEFL® iBT exam, feel hope. Take a bit of time to lower your anxiousness about the test. To keep your anxiety under wraps, you need to prepare mentally. Since you know that you have prepped sufficiently before the exam day, you can reduce your feelings of nervousness so that come exam day, you will be mentally strong. A few key study tips are useful if you still continue to struggle with some anxiety about the day of the exam and the outcome:

Breathe. And again. Take a deep breath. Focusing on the breath will take the stress away from thinking about the actual test.

Know what you have to do, and concentrate on how you can get it done well in time. Look at your calendar, and the day you will take your test. Count how many days or weeks remain before you take the plunge. Highlight your test day in yellow. Don’t panic! Maybe your nerves are feeling jittery just thinking about that day. Take a breath and put your anxiousness aside. When you confront the test day with confidence, you are forced to know what time you have left before the date. Assess exactly how much time you have prior to your test. Is it days or weeks? This step gives you a sense of what you need to plan for, so you can take more control over your nerves. Feel confident, because even if only two days exist before your upcoming test, you still have the opportunity to prepare.

Now that you know the exact time frame of how many days or hours you have prior to taking your TOEFL, create a detailed study plan for reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary. Take a pen and journal, or in your notebook or weekly calendar, come up with a plan with study sessions that addresses the priorities you want to get done in the time frame left. How long will you spend on each skill? Whichever skill is your weakest, practice that first to improve upon it. Even practice it longer than you work on other skills. Humans often tend to procrastinate what overwhelms… and the skill that is your weak point is a daunting task. How will you organize your practice sessions to maximize effectiveness? Do not stray from your plan even if you feel overwhelmed. Re-focus your brain to stay on track and get whatever needs to be done completed within the time frame. After you finish every study session, you will feel more confident that you accomplished what you had planned out in advance, which lowers your level of worry.

Short on time? If you just have a few days before your test, make a plan to study numerous hours every day or more for each of the days left. If you have a few weeks, create a study plan for minimum an hour and a half per day or several hours at various times every week.

What not to do when you fine tune your schedule? When you are setting your study time, avoid a plan to study the night before the exam. The day before the exam should be used as a day of rest so that your mind stays fresh for the test date. You don’t want to be lacking concentration during the listening or speaking sections, do you? You wouldn’t want to run out of steam when you get to the final section, writing, either. So, in your plan, budget the last day before the test as a resting day, with minimal focus on studying. Rather, relaxation will help your mind be at ease and loosen your anxiety.

Prioritize what you need to do first by using a study guide. What are you going to tackle during each study session? For how long? Since the exam covers such a wide range of material, you want to make sure you face each skill during your study sessions. If you have test anxiety, maybe it’s because you do not know where to begin. You may feel overwhelmed with too many parts to study at once. This is where prioritizing comes in handy. To reduce your nervousness, attack the study materials by making a checklist of what you must study first as the most important to the least important. Stick to that order. How to know what is the most important? If you use a study guide with practice questions or a sample test, you can pinpoint your weaknesses. Address your weak areas first. In this way, you can use your study time more efficiently.

Finally, you need to hit the books. Study! So, if your study plan has a time frame of two hours, then get to work. Sit down and follow your plan. Do not procrastinate, not even 15 minutes. It would increase your anxiety level as the exam day approaches. If you mentally feel like putting it off, just remember your ultimate goal of success. Paint a mental picture of getting to your objective. Know that you will reduce your test anxiety by putting your study plan into effect effectively.


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How to Study Effectively, Part 1

Be organized

  1. Create a study calendar. Organize your timetable so that your biggest weaknesses are prioritized first and given the most attention time. Prioritize (high-medium-low) skills and practice what needs to be learned urgently first. Then, address what weaknesses you can strengthen and plan out how long you expect it to take you. Avoid procrastinating and be sure to give equal time to your least favorite task. Practice the skill that you enjoy most LAST not first. The skills that are the least urgent to learn practice last as well. Use color coding on your calendar to highlight the most important skill to learn.
  2. Use a study notebook. It can be either a traditional notebook, or Notes in an app on a smartphone. Whichever you use for taking notes, keep it handy at all times so you can refer to it in your free time. Notes are a valuable tool to keep yourself organized and to retain information you already studied so you are able to track your progress and advance in the language.
  3. Address different language skills when you study. If you take too much time on just one academic skill, it will give you less time for another skill, which may be just as important to improve your English or test-taking strategies.
  4. Keep your notebook/notes/computer files well organized. Create files by academic skills in your computer files, notes in a binder, or notebook. For instance, have a notebook for vocabulary, for speaking, for listening, for reading, for writing; or otherwise, have different sections of your notes in your binder for each academic skill. Write the skill name to label the differing sections, so that when you go to study, you can quickly reference your notes. Be sure to write the date on the left side of your notes for each day that you write new notes. You skill subjects can be then divided into sub topics such as a particular topic of different kinds of vocabulary words or where you got those vocabulary words from. In this way, you can quickly reference your notes by skill, by sub topic, or by date. All of this organization will make it much easier to locate a certain topic when you need to refer back to it quickly later on in your practice.

Have a target range

  1. Timing: when you make your study table with your deadline date, be sure you have given yourself a realistic time frame to complete what you would like to achieve. For example, “Complete writing essay task 2 for 30 minutes timed. Clearly write exactly what you have in mind to accomplish in terms of an activity during a specific time and on a certain date.
  2. Be realistic. When you set your target, it needs to conform to what you can attain. If, for instance, you set an unrealistic ideal, you may not be able to get your target, or you will feel discouraged if you cannot get your objective. By looking at your calendar and working within a specific time frame to complete practice activities, you can set real targets which are attainable.
  3. Reward yourself for minor achievements: think daily in terms of what you can achieve. Every little achievement is like a baby step, and it will help you feel more comfortable in the language as well as assist in building your confidence in TOEFL and for test taking. With this in mind, you can reach your short term and long term goals. Reward yourself after each study session. When you reach a target, mentally congratulate yourself. Positivity goes a long way in building your confidence to succeed.