Find your Test-Taking "Zone"

Finding your Optimal Level of Test Stress

Did you know that some stress during test time may actually help your performance? Yerkes and Dodson found that performance increases with stimulation to an optimal level. Once your optimal level is reached, performance in fact reduces if stress is further increased.* So, in short, too much or too little stress is not good for us. To find success on exams, it is important to find the "optimal" level of stress- enough to maintain your attention span but not so much that your performance is impaired because of anxiety.

Tips for Getting Into the "Zone" on Test Day

 Managing anxiety during the exam begins with ample preparation before test time:

  • Review your class materials shortly after they are presented, then continue to review them regularly, adding new concepts as you go.  This is the best way to shift information into your long-term memory. 
  • As you approach exam day, make sure you know the details of the test, including content, format, and timing. Don't forget to review important specifics of the exam like where it's located, what time it begins, and what materials you can and can't access during the test. 
  • Practice positive thoughts: envision yourself taking the exam and staying calm, focused, and engaged.  Envision success!  

Maintain peak performance during the exam:

  • Be sure to breathe! Holding your breathe tells your body that you're dying, so make sure you're getting plenty of air-flow.
  • When you feel yourself becoming tense, review the positive self-talk that you practiced as you prepared for the exam. Consider these affirmations: "I studied for this.  I'm ready to succeed, I just need to calm down and focus."
  • As you move through the exam, let this simple motto guide your thoughts: accept what you cannot change and have the courage to tackle what you can.