As I look at my calendar it shocks me that we are already in April. It is hard to believe that we have once again reached this inevitable season of state testing. 

Many students get anxious at the thought of having to prove themselves on paper, especially when they lack confidence in their knowledge. When expectations are high and the student is feeling pressure from parents or teachers, it’s no wonder that test anxiety rears its ugly head. The good news is that there are many strategies to defeat that menacing monster.

Taking an exam is a lot like an athletic practice session. Imagine that you are at basketball practice. What is the first thing the coach does, divide the team in two and have you play a scrimmage game? Of course not. Your coach has you warm up to get your blood moving and your muscles warm before the more demanding and rigorous portion of practice. By the time practice is half through, you hardly notice how hard your body is working, that you’re sweating profusely and that your heart is pounding, but you feel good. As practice nears its end, you feel good about what you’ve accomplished and, although your body has demanded much of you, you do not really feel the strain because you started gradually and worked your way up to maximum potential. Taking an exam is actually just like that.

As you enter the room and take your seat, remember to start off easy. Try to relax as you listen to your teacher’s instructions, and take a deep breath when you are told, “You may now begin.” Keep in mind that the test writers don’t expect you to know every single answer. They write the test so that the average student as well as the super bright student will be challenged, so don’t get discouraged.

Just as an athlete doesn’t jump right into a game and play his hardest without first warming up, you shouldn’t jump right into answering every question right away. When you begin your exam, read each question with thought and answer only the questions that you are sure you know the answer to. Leave the tougher ones for later. As you make your way through the exam, you’ll see that your brain is warming up and thinking better. After you’ve answered all of the ‘easy’ questions, go back to the beginning of the test and re-read the questions you skipped. You’ll be surprised at how many more you can answer now that you’ve warmed up. Eventually, you will have to attempt every single question, even those that you feel clueless about, but do your best.

The day before your exam, be sure to eat healthy foods, drink water and go to bed on time. An in the morning, before heading out to take your test, drink water and eat a healthy breakfast. After all, wouldn’t you do the same if you were playing in the NBA championship?

Lora Incardona has been a public school teacher since 1993 and holds master degrees in bilingual education and educational leadership. Her book, Lora the Study Coach’s Easy Study Manual, education articles and blog can be found at