Students around the world are facing academic exam season. While they search out strategies to deal with the anxieties of those tests, my mother and so many others are facing the anxieties of major medical tests. The parallels between the two situations are strong, yet for supporters of test-takers, one has the optimism is swimming in sadness. So for my family and anyone else out there going through a health crisis, I offer these test-taking strategies, actual language from this guide by ETS who produces the GRE and other exams. What to do your life is being tested…


Recognize the Signs of Anxiety in Your Body.

  • Tense muscles
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Faintness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling jittery or panicky
  • Racing thoughts
  • Mental blank-out
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative thoughts about the consequences of failure, past performance, and how everyone else is doing.

A tiny amount of anxiety isn’t bad – it’s actually helpful to be “up” when preparing for and taking a test.

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  1. Practice tension-release exercises.

    When you start to feel anxious, take a couple long, deep breaths and exhale slowly. When you feel your body tensing up, focus on a particular group of muscles (eg. the shoulders), and first contract them for 10 seconds and then let them relax.

  2. Don’t believe the rumors you hear.

    There are many myths that circulate, but they are just that–myths.

  3. Learn about the test.

    It sounds obvious enough, but a lot of people who have test anxiety deal with by avoidance. If you look at the test and start worrying, first take a deep breath and remember that worrying is not going to do any good.

  4. Make a prep calendar and stick to it.

    Have you take the necessary steps? When you have completed each task you have planned, cross it off your schedule so you experience a sense of accomplishment,

  5. Fill your time with positive thoughts and actions.

    The time to deal with negative thoughts is now. Remind yourself of all the positive things you have going for you. If I don’t pass this test, I’m a failure. replace with >>> I’m going to pass this test, but if I don’t, I can bounce back.

  6. Take care of your body and mind.

    Eat well. Sleep well. Continue to socialize with friends and family, and take breaks regularly. Try to avoid acquaintances with negative attitudes. Surround yourself with positive people.

Thank you, ETS, for that advice. I’m sure prayer and spiritual connection can also be included. In any case, great reminders when health and life decide to test us.