By: Destiny (5th year, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour) and Fei (4th Year, Health Sciences)
Being a student who always wanted to do well, I placed a lot of pressure on myself. This pressure grew during a calculus class I took in second year. After midterms, my overall academic performance was not great and I was no longer confident in my abilities to improve my grades. This made me anxious and afraid of completing a test.
My test anxiety stemmed from a fear of failure and incompetency when my performance did not match my expectations. I had to seek support and learn to accept failure, build confidence in my academic abilities and create time to review the content I struggled with.
The best strategies that worked for me was consulting someone about my feelings, self-reflection and adding a little positivity throughout the course of my study. Talking with someone, like a friend or professor, allowed me to clarify and relieve any concerns I had before a test. Self-reflection helped me address the source of my emotions. Using a journal, I allowed myself to write freely, channeling any emotions I had.
After about a week, I would return to my journal to reflect on how I felt without judgment. Lastly, I combatted negative thoughts with positive, self-fulfilling thoughts. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this” or “I’m not good enough,” I reminded myself how far I came and the effort I put along the way. This helped me from being self-critical and more compassionate towards myself.
When I first came to university, I was terrified of midterms and exams. Despite hearing how difficult university is, I expected to achieve the same grades I had in high school. I soon realized that university is not at all like high school. I remember crying outside of Centro with my friend after our chemistry test, while we shared a piece of cheesecake.
After this, I began to experience more test anxiety. It’s been a challenging journey to cope with test anxiety, but I’ve learned to embrace the idea that it’s okay to encounter setbacks and not excel as I used to. Accepting the possibility of “failure” helped reduce my test anxiety over time.
When I made the decision to not pursue a career in medicine, I changed my perspective. I no longer put so much value on grades because they don’t represent my true learning and abilities entirely. This career change and perspective had relieved the immense pressure I used to feel.
In addition, practicing deep breathing exercises helped calm my nerves before a test. Before beginning a test, I try to find a quiet space and take 10 minutes to follow a guided meditation or breathing exercise on YouTube. This simple practice has been incredibly beneficial in reducing my test anxiety.
Test anxiety is a normal experience and with support, it can get better. We hope that our stories show that it is okay to experience test anxiety. You can seek support from friends, professors and other professionals to cope. We all have unique experiences with test taking, and it can be helpful to try a variety of ways to reduce anxiety.