Jillian Samms, Contributor
SO YOU’VE done extra lessons and Saturday classes for the last year. You’ve done practice papers and mock exams. You’ve worked really hard, so hard you don’t know when last you got to use your playstation, watch TV or hang out with your friends.
The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is fast approaching and you are already anxious. Don’t worry, feeling stress and test anxiety is normal. Here are some tips to help you get through it.
Make studying fun!
You have to study. It’s the only way you will do well and get into the school of your choice. You may as well make it fun to learn. Plus, knowing you are prepared will make you less anxious. Try studying with a game format like Jeopardy. Ask your parents to study with you. When you are ready to review what you have learnt, ask them to make up questions under the various subjects and assign points. Get rewarded on the points you tally.
What did the question ask?
Practise reading the instructions properly before attacking the problem. Remember, many of the questions look familiar. But they may be asking for different information. Try these four steps: Study the question, underline the verbs or key words, organise the information, attack the question.
The night before the exam
Eat and sleep
Yes, I know adults say it a lot, but it is true. In order for your brain to cooperate you do need to feed it and it give it rest. Don’t you function better at ballet or football competitions when you’ve had some food and slept well the night before? Test-taking requires a lot of energy too.
Know what anxiety feels like
The best way to beat a challenge is to prepare for it. Know that it is normal to be anxious. It is our body’s way of telling us that something important is coming up. Most people feel the following symptoms when they are nervous. Read them and know which ones apply to you:
- sweaty palms;
- a feeling of ‘butterflies’ in your stomach;
- having a ‘mind block’ … like you can’t remember anything;
- feeling shaky;
- heart racing.
The day of the exam
So we already agreed that you will likely feel anxious and we know what the symptoms of anxiety are. Well then, now we need to know what to do when we feel the anxiety coming on.
Visualise for success
Picture yourself in your exam environment. Many things may feel weird – different seating, examiners moving about. But once you know that, then you can visualise yourself getting through it.
Arrive early, find a quiet spot and take deep breaths. Inhale for five seconds and exhale slowly.
Avoid panicky friends
Stay away from those who encourage anxiety by panicking.
You know this stuff. You’ve prepared for this. So when those negative thoughts come. “What if I don’t do well” or “what if I forget everything”, stop yourself right away! Rephrase by thinking, “What if I do better than I thought I could?”
If you freeze, it will still turn out OK
If you open the test booklet and you feel like your mind is frozen or gone blank, take a minute for yourself. Take a deep breath and scan the page. Eventually you will start to see things that look familiar. Attack an easy question to build your confidence. Then go back to the start.
After the exam
Go and have some fun! You deserve it!