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Avoiding "the freeze..." or how to handle Test Stress and Exam Anxiety


How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:

First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically over-stimulated by the adrenaline. When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding at all. We can actually know most of the material, but not be able to recall it when we have that adrenaline rush...

How do we deal with, or avoid the freeze:

The freeze can happen when we are either overconfident or under-confident going into a test situation. The freeze is usually triggered when we come to a problem that we're not sure how to solve. The first step is to relax, and move on to an easier problem that we do remember how to handle. Some students say it really helps them to say a little prayer. That always seemed to work for me. Take some slow, deep breaths, and use about half a minute to think of something in school that you are good at. Think of something that makes you feel relaxed and confident for a moment. Then proceed with the easiest problem on the test or quiz, if you can identify one. Save the harder problems for last, and come back to them if time allows. As we work the easier problems, we may get some clues that will help us solve the harder ones, and that can help us get back on track. Another key to test success is being "over-prepared," but not being "over-confident." For example, anything that needs to be memorized can be written in a special notebook, and then it can be reviewed or re-written until it is "solid" in our memory.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions as to how you deal with test stress, and what works best for you.