If you experience some level of anxiety before or during an important test, well, you are normal! Whether or not tests are even good at evaluating what we know, they are used in real life for important decisions. Whether or not you can pass a class. Whether or not you can get a score high enough to go to a certain college or degree program. The TOEFL is a good example. It might not even be a very good tool for assessing how well you can understand and communicate in English, but if you don’t get the right score, you may miss out on an important opportunity.
I used to proctor TOEFL tests and I could see some of the basic things that hurt students. For example, during speaking, many other test-takers in the room are talking and it is disruptive. Usually there is no separation between you and the other test-takers; they are just a few feet from you. Test-takers didn’t take enough notes. Test-takers didn’t talk loudly enough. Test-takers didn’t stretch and breathe during the big break.
What are the TOP FIVE things you can do to feel more relaxed and confident on test day?
#1: The most important way to reduce stress on test day is to be prepared. This means having studied extensively, well in advance. (By the way, we offer prep classes which also teach test anxiety reduction techniques! https://ccbatlanta.edu/testimonial/toefl-program/)
#2: Believe it or not, research has shown that writing about your anxiety before a test results in substantially higher relaxation during the test and higher scores too. What to write? Write about how you feel and what the reasons are for this test being so stressful to you. This writing activity is kind of like a breathing activity… it pushes some stress out of you.
#3: Like we just mentioned… breathing pushes stress out of you. Weeks before the test, start a regular routine of relaxation breathing. Search Google for “relaxation breathing techniques” and also “free guided meditation” and you will find many wonderful resources. Here’s a good one: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~healthed/relax/downloads.html
#4: Expect some anxiety… it’s normal! But once you acknowledge that, you don’t have to focus on it either. If you start thinking about the anxiety, move your thoughts to another topic.
#5: Make sleep a priority. Even if you are a night owl, a week or two before the test, make sure you are going to bed a little earlier and getting around 8 hours of sleep each night. This is a “no-brainer!” – in other words, it’s easy to do and there’s just no reason not to do it.
#6: Last but maybe most important: Start an aerobic exercise routine. Aerobic exercise not only improves your mood and lowers stress, it also improves your brain performance, focus, and confidence. For example, simply jogging for 20 minutes, 3x per week, will make a huge difference if you currently don’t do any physical activity.
We hope you like these tips! Oh any here’s one more: take the test again! Just taking it again will usually result in a significantly higher score.
Please ask us for any more advice.