By Yerehny Limon, March 21, 2023

With midterms and finals week approaching, testing anxiety can have a negative effect on students which in turn affects their test taking performance. 

Cal Poly Pomona’s Counseling and Psychological Services held an Overcoming Anxiety workshop March 16. Jennifer Kohagura, CPP’s clinical psychologist, went over the many ways students can overcome testing anxiety and some methods to calm down. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”  

Kohagura gave many suggestions on how students should manage their test anxiety. Discussing how to study with test anxiety and how to prepare mentally. 

In Kohagura’s presentation, she suggests students should study in small increments.  

“I wouldn’t recommend cramming the day of the exam since you don’t actually learn anything,” Kohagura said. “Study for 15 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes to prevent burning yourself out.” 

Kohagura also recommends that students focus on studying their weaker areas and review the other areas you are confident in. This allows more focus on the topics students do not understand rather than studying something already known. 

“CPP offers a lot of resources that students can use,” Kohagura said. “There are apps CPP has and there are the Mindfulness Monday’s students can attend.” 

Mindfulness Mondays are offered by CPP’s César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education and CAPS departments where students meditate along with sound therapy, journaling and art. 

Mayo Clinic Health System staff suggest trying the 54321 methods to minimize feeling anxious. During Kohagura’s presentation she suggested doing diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing or trying to meditate to catch your breath and to relax before the test starts.  

The 54321 method has you focus on five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell and one thing you taste. 

“This exercise helps shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious,” Mayo Clinic Health System staff stated. “It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.” 

In Kohagura’s workshop, she provided a video on belly breathing. It is a technique used to focus on breathing. This method can be done sitting or lying down. With one hand on the chest and the other over the belly button, take a deep breath in to feel the belly raise and then exhale. Repeat this 10 times or until breathing feels natural.  

Kohagura also recommends that students try watching meditation videos on YouTube.  

“There are many five-minute YouTube videos that students can watch,Kohagura said. “It doesn’t take long to watch the video, and everybody can spare a couple of minutes to meditate.”  

On the day of the exam, make sure to breathe properly. 

“If you are thinking negative thoughts, realize that you are having these thoughts and don’t let it take you down,” Kohagura said. “Think about the other test you did well on to fight the negative thoughts.”  

Kohagura recommends that students have a pre-game ritual on test day to prepare before taking the test. She recommends students arrive early to class.  

“I think parking has gotten better this year, but I’ve had students tell me that they had to run to class because they were finding parking,” Kohagura said. “By the time they got to their seats they were already so anxious about being late that they couldn’t focus properly on the test.”  

Kohagura also recommends that students walk or stretch the morning of the test, give themselves a pep talk, take a deep breath before opening the exam and to not change the initial answer.  

Testing can be a very nerve-racking thing for many students. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed or stressed. 

If students are dealing with any type of mental health problem that can or does affect their studies, visit CPP’s CAPS to make an appointment with a consultant.  

Feature image courtesy of Samuel Bourke

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