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Counseling center gives tips for handling test anxiety

Written by John Preer


With less than two weeks left and the race of the semester slowly winding down, students are expected to run one more gauntlet.

Finals can be stressful for many students, and nerves can prove to be their downfall during exams

The Counseling Center held a seminar at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to attempt to fight the crippling effects of text anxiety.

The seminar was held by Assistant Director Dr. Leah McMillan, and focused on the causes of test anxiety as well as techniques to help student efficiency during tests.

Dr. McMillan attributed the main causes of test anxiety to poor time management and study skills.    Everybody suffers from test anxiety; the difference lies in how an individual reacts to that anxiety.  When an individual experiences the positive form of anxiety, it is called eustress.  Eustress acts as a motivator and encourages performance.  Distress is the opposite of eustress and usually leads to an inability to perform.

There were many different techniques that Dr. McMillan suggested for students to adopt in order to be better organized.  Once a student has become organized, he or she can focus on developing productive study habits.  Many freshman students fail to realize that the amount of studying required to succeed in college far exceeds the amount necessary in high school.  As a result, many students fall behind in their studies.

No matter which technique a student chooses to utilize, Dr. McMillan urges students to be consistent.

“Once you find a technique, stick to it,” she said.

One particular strategy that Dr. McMillan spoke about is a 60 second pause for relaxation.  She encouraged students to use this time to calm themselves and focus on the present task.  Many students struggle with testing simply because they dwell on past performances and fail to maintain concentration on the current exam.  Dr. McMillan also suggested students avoid comparing test scores with their peers.  Test anxiety is contagious and discussing scores can inadvertently discourage other students.

Perhaps two of the most applicable tips discussed during the seminar were for the students to know the material and their professors.  Thoroughly understanding the material prior to taking a test can relieve most of the stress associated with not knowing the answers to test questions.  In addition to knowing the material, knowing the professor can give an individual a tremendous advantage.  With knowledge of the professor, a student can adjust their notes and study habits to the professor’s teaching style.

Dr. McMillan encouraged students to try and take a certain professor for multiple courses if that professor’s teaching style is beneficial and facilitates growth.

In addition to the many things students should do in order to battle test anxiety, there are some things they should avoid if they want to be successful test takers.

The biggest thing to avoid is cramming.  When a student crams for a test only a small percentage of the information will be retained.  Dr. McMillan also discouraged students from looking at notes immediately before a test.  It is okay to bring notes to an exam, but looking at notes prior to an exam can make a student focus on the things that are unknown, rather than the material that is known.

These seminars are free and are held twice a semester, once before midterms and once before finals.

Students are encouraged to visit the Counseling Center to learn how to permanently get rid of test anxiety.

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