Test Anxiety: Crash Course Study Skills #8

Hi, I’m Thomas Frank, and this is Crash
Course Study Skills. Henry Fonda was a famous actor with a career
that spanned 54 years and included starring roles
in classic movies like 12 Angry Men and Once
Upon a Time in the West. He was one of the most well-known and successful
actors of his time, bringing home an Oscar, two Golden
Globes, and even a Grammy before retiring. So it might surprise you to learn that Fonda
had a lifelong struggle with performance anxiety. In fact, even when he was 75 years old, with over half
a century of acting experience under his belt, he would
often throw up before beginning stage performances. But, despite his anxiety and sudden lack of lunch,
Fonda would still step out from behind the curtain and
give the audience the great performance they expected. That’s because he understood one of the unavoidable
facts of life – a fact that the author Steven Pressfield
put so well in his book The War of Art: “Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same
code of necessity, which dictates that the
battle must be fought anew every day.” If you’re a student, you might not be performing
on a stage or facing down an enemy army, but your tests and exams are battles all their own,
and they often come with the same feelings of anxiety. These feelings are normal, and you’ll never
truly banish them. If you’re doing work that’s important to you,
you’ll always feel some amount of anxiety. And that can actually be a good thing, because anxiety
is an indicator that what you’re doing IS important. Otherwise, you’d be apathetic about it. However, too much test anxiety can hurt you. Research has shown that high-pressure situations
can actually deplete your working memory. Additionally, stress caused by anxiety
produces a hormone called cortisol, and too much cortisol can hinder the ability
of the hippocampus to recall memories. This means that it is crucial to learn how
to manage your test anxiety. You have to learn how to perform well in the
face of it, and make sure it doesn’t consume your thoughts so you can actually solve that
geometry proof that’s staring you in the face. Fortunately, there are several techniques
and mental exercises you can use to do that. Roll the intro! [Theme Music] Test anxiety is caused by many different factors,
but today we’re going to focus on the most common
ones, which I call the Three Big Fears: Number one: A fear of repeating past failures Number two: The fear of the unknown Number three: The fear of the stakes Now, in a minute, we’re going to dig into each of these fears and work to figure out how you can combat them, but before we do that, there is one general
purpose strategy I want to share with you. The next time you feel anxious going into a test, take
out a piece of paper and spend a couple minutes writing
out exactly what’s causing you to feel that way. This has been scientifically proven to reduce
test anxiety. A study done at the University of Chicago found
that students who were given 10 minutes to write
about their fears and anxieties before a test improved their scores by an average of nearly
one grade point compared to the control group. This technique works for pretty much the same
reason that using a to-do list works: It allows you to take all those worries out of your
head and store them somewhere safe. You’ve probably been in a situation before
where you’re stressed, and a friend tells you,
“Hey, just don’t worry about it, man!” Of course, you can’t – right? You can’t just let go of the things that
are worrying you – after all, your brain
thinks they’re important. However, by writing them down, you’re unloading
those worries into an external system that you trust. Subconsciously, you know that they’re not
going anywhere. And by doing this, you free up mental resources
that you can then devote to doing well on the test. So that brings us to our first big fear: the
fear of repeating past failures. Logically, everyone knows that failure is
inevitable every once in awhile. “To err is human,” wrote Alexander Pope,
and the realm of calculus finals is no exception. But we’re not always logical. In fact, human beings have an inherent
negativity bias – a tendency to remember and give more emotional
weight to negative events rather than positive ones. This is a feature of the brain that’s pretty
useful when it comes to survival – after all, remembering which mushrooms
made you sick or not to try to shake hands with
a tiger is pretty important for survival. But the negativity bias doesn’t limit itself
to poisonous mushrooms or tigers; any negative event can create feelings of
apprehension and fear when it comes up again. So even though almost everyone does poorly
on tests and exams at least once in awhile, when it happens to you, you might naturally
fear that it’ll happen again the next time around. So how you do you actually beat this negativity
bias? Well, first, realize that you’re not defined by
your past successes or failures – despite what that insidious part of your
brain might try to tell you. While the path you’re on right now is certainly
in part a product of your past choices, it’s not
a path with a predetermined destination. At any time, you can choose to do things
differently than you did in the past. If you’re ready to do that, you need to start by
analyzing your past mistakes and gathering as
much information about them as you can. After all, you can only improve if you know
what you were doing wrong before. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Elite chess players understand this concept
really well. While they spend a lot of their practice time
playing games and studying the openings and
endgames of players at higher ranks, they also dedicate a ton of time to analyzing their
own past games – especially the ones they lost. By doing so, they can start to correct bad
habits and uncover patterns in their playing, which
can then be tweaked or improved in the future. So take a cue from these chess players – as well
as from elite performers in pretty much any other
discipline, be it opera singers or figure skaters – and review your past exams
to see how you can improve. Start by getting your hands on a copy of
your past exam; if your teacher doesn’t usually hand these out
or let you take them home, talk to them after class
and ask if you can at least look it over. And while you’re talking with them, also
ask for feedback – especially if your exam contained short-answer or
essay questions where there’s no concrete answer. Once you’ve got a past exam in your hands,
review the mistakes you made. Don’t just acknowledge your mistakes; for each
incorrect question, make sure you understand
why your answer was the wrong one. If it was a complex problem – like a math
equation – identify the exact point where
you made a mistake. Additionally, make sure you know what the
right answer was, and why it was right. Before you move on, cross-reference the question
with your notes, as well. If you’re going to be tested on that question
again – like in a final exam – highlight that section
of your notes so you know it’s important. You can also create quiz questions for later
review. Overall, shoot for mastery over the material
so you don’t make the same mistake again. Thanks, Thought Bubble. The details of those incorrect questions aren’t
the only things that deserve reflection. You also need to figure out why you made the
mistakes in the first place. Ask yourself: Was I unprepared? And if so, why was I unprepared? Did I simply not put enough time into reviewing? Did I ignore the study guide? Or did I use an ineffective study method? If you feel that you were prepared, then maybe
something went wrong during the actual exam. Maybe you rushed through and made a lot of
careless errors. Or maybe you let time get away from you and
didn’t actually finish the whole exam. Or maybe that creepy AI from Ghost in the Shell
hacked your brain in the middle of the exam and forced
you to spend the whole time licking your paper. These things happen. Whatever the reason was, don’t let it get
you down too much. Remember that failure is a great teacher – and
it’s a better one than success. Since we remember our failures so well, every
one of them is a lesson and an opportunity. But you need to make sure that you use that
opportunity by making a plan for how you’ll
avoid the mistake in the future. Just saying “I’ll do better next time”
isn’t enough – you need to know exactly
how you’re gonna do better. And that’s not all you need to know. In fact, the more you can learn about your
exam in all its facets, the more comfortable
you’re gonna be. This is the way to overcome the second of
our big fears: The Fear of the Unknown. People naturally fear what they don’t understand,
and in general, this is a good thing! It’s another one of those pieces of brain
programming that’s useful for survival,
and most other animals share it with us. When I visited New York City for the first
time several years ago, I noticed that the squirrels there seemed
much less afraid of people than the squirrels
back home in Iowa – but that was because these big-city squirrels
had a lot of experience dealing with people,
and it was mostly positive. So try to gain as much experience with the
upcoming exam as you can. Now, we talked a lot about how to do this
in the last video on preparing for tests, but the general principle is to try to replicate
the test conditions when you’re studying. Do your best to get access to practice tests
and study guides, and create quizzes out of
your notes to fill in the gaps. Additionally, spend some time studying in
a classroom that looks and feels similar to
the one you’ll be tested in, and quiz yourself under the same time
constraints that you’ll face during the exam. You want to make the test feel like a familiar
old friend when you actually face it. As Scott Berkun, a professional public
speaker, put it: “By the time I present to an actual audience,
it’s not really the first time at all.” That’s the feeling you’re going for. And that brings us to the last of our big
three fears, which is the Fear of the Stakes. One of the biggest sources of test anxiety
is the feeling that this test means everything – it’s gonna define your overall grade, where
you’ll be able to go to college, and whether or not
you’ll get to work for Elon Musk some day. But in reality, you’re rarely going to come
across a test or situation that you can’t recover
from in the case that things go wrong. Trust me – I actually failed a test in college
once. And Nick over there actually failed an entire
class – twice. And, even worse, I was once fired from a job. In both cases it was totally my fault, but
I learned my lessons, I made sure I never made
the same mistakes again, and I moved on. And even if things don’t go perfectly for
you, you’ll be able to do the same thing. If that’s not comforting enough, try reframing
the test in your mind. Think of it as yet another learning opportunity
rather than as a judgement. After all, a test challenges you to recall what
you’ve learned, and as we’ve already discussed, active recall strengthens your
mastery over the material. And – at least for me – viewing a test
this way makes it seem a lot less scary. Lastly, keep in your mind that anxiety isn’t something
you always need to try to deal with on your own. If you have anxiety that’s majorly affecting your
life, don’t hesitate to ask a professional for help. Hopefully you found this week’s video to
be helpful. Next week, we’ll be switching gears and
talking about how to write great research
papers and essays. See you then! Crash Course Study Skills is filmed in the
Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio in
Missoula, MT, and it’s made with the help
of all of these nice people. If you’d like to help keep Crash Course free
for everyone, forever, you can support this series
over at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that
allows you to support the content you love. Thank you so much for your support.

100 thoughts on “Test Anxiety: Crash Course Study Skills #8

  1. This is great, I have a giant honors world religion test, I’ve been working on my study guide all week and studied the whole thing today. I’m so nervous and then I studied and realized I already knew it.

  2. What about a lack of test anxiety? I never get nervous for tests or exams, even if I haven't studied, and it worries me a bit, cuz like I feel like I'm supposed to be as nervous as everyone else but I'm just not. I feel like I don't care enough, since not studying and just kinda wingin' it has allowed me to stay an honour roll student, but it just doesn't feel like it's supposed to be that way.

  3. Great video! You probably have everything already planned out, but something about high school/college applications would be great

  4. Hmm……..I learned most about how to deal with upcoming tests and the pressure that comes with it.

  5. Wow, this is why I have failed at everything in my life while being an otherwise intelligent person. Too bad its too late for me now.

  6. hmm, ive always had complete faith in myself that i would perform better than anyone else so i dont get test anxiety :/

  7. I was soooooo stressed before the first cal2 exam, I did bunch of practices but still didn't feel right. On the exam day I felt like I didn't understand any of those questions, then after the exam i discussed with my classmate and found out I got the easiest question wrong, I was not sad, but I was mad, at myself, then I bit myself on my arm and asked myself why i'm so stupid. the very next day my professor posted a link of this video….. I was ready having 10 or 20 out of 100 on the exam, but i got 77. well, worth it

  8. This video is sooo helpful and it couldn’t have come at a better time. These tips seem actually beneficial instead of the normal tips that everyone gives you like “relax, this exam doesn’t determines everything”

  9. Subscribe to Thomas Franks channel! He talks about this same kind of stuff all the time. He also goes into much more detail with individual topics. https://www.youtube.com/user/electrickeye91

  10. What happens to me, is that no matter how well prepared I am for an exam and how much I study.. when anxiety kicks in during an exam.. my head gets blank and I can’t think straight

  11. thank you so much.i m an exam freak,and even when i prepare to the best of my ability ,my response in exams has been poor recently.The video indeed did help to figure out what exactly was going wrong.

  12. Any way too deal with the guilt of being lazy, like it's a cycle , you slack off, fall asleep and then you don't get the lesson and get a bad grade then you blame yourself for slacking off and are too ashamed to ask for help cause it's your own fault then the cycle repeats cause you get discouraged by the failure and convince yourself you suck and slack off again

  13. what I, unfortunately, do not find helpfull is that most of these kind of videos are always based on theory studying. I am a student at an art academy and none of these tips apply to the kind of test I undergo… really like this series though, just wished there was something out there more relevant for those who are graded on their work instead of the ability to memorise. (no criticism there)

  14. I remember reading in one of my favourite childhood books that getting nervous for something means you care about it. I think about that before I take tests, and it reminds me why I want to do well in the first place 🙂

  15. I got test anxiety on my maths test because this was going to determine my future career, thank you for this video👍😧

  16. I love you CrashCourse!!!!! Anything that I am studying for or just randomly think of I look to see if you guys have a video on it. Thank you for contributing to my success as a student!

  17. Can you guys make a video about how to study mark schemes and how to understand what questions are actually asking for?

  18. I almost started hyperventlating (probably spelt that horribly wrong) during a test. So this helped a lot. Thank you.

  19. 4:40 welp can't go do that I've asked for my test and my teacher said he couldn't give it to me I asked him what should I improve on and he said math 😒 teacher was no help

  20. I've been having test anxiety since I'd failed that ASVAB, since than it got worse with all the test I've took in the past and still hadn't gotten over it.

  21. I suffer from severe GAD and I thought I was just overreacting about tests and I was just getting panic attacks because my anxiety is SO BAD. My mind is blown lol never knew this was a thing.

  22. i’m here the night before my algebra 2 test, yeehaw 🤠 lowkey already know i failed but at the same time i have to be POSITIVE

  23. Professional tutor of 7 years here. Everything in this is video is gold. Students who follow this advice WILL do better on their tests and grades. The biggest thing that helps most of my students is reframing the test in your mind and adjusting your attitude toward what it means to you. Tests are indeed very important, but they do not define us. Looking at the test as a learning opportunity is an amazing way to alleviate stress.

  24. my history teacher last year called his tests "celebration of knowledge" and it really helped me look at them differently

  25. Thank you so much! This helps me a lot. Even if I can’t get this stress anxiety out of my head, I have to encourage myself that my past mistakes in major exams do not define me and they are just learning experiences for a better me ^^

  26. Good luck to all those with exams coming up! I just did a video on re-purposing exam nerves if you think it might help.

  27. I get good grades and usually only get one 70 a year but I get bad grades on test because I get scared and forget everything

  28. Thank you for this. I just made a grade on a test that moved my grade down 10 points. A failure like that gives me anxiety that I won't ever be successful and makes me doubt whether I'm actually as smart as I am told or not. I will try to use these tips in the future, and hopefully I can get my grade back up.

  29. "To err is human; to forgive, divine" is one where phraseology is correct, but not the use – err in context mean sin, not just an innocent mistake.

  30. My Issue us when a handful of people finish before me and around the same time. It makes me feel that I am taking much too long or I won't have enough time, so I instantly speed up and don't read the questions carefully.

  31. Coming from someone who got held back as a kid and is currently in school for engineering. And I absolutly get test anxiety to the max, STILL. Repitition, repitition, repitition! And don't pitty yourself. Rock your world and communicate with as many people as possible 🤙🏼

  32. I have my algebra EOC on Tuesday and Friday and I’m literally shaking. I had a breakdown today in school because my anxiety is so bad.

  33. I am a college student who often gets severely anxious over tests and classes. In extreme cases they make me hate my major. The classes are not the problem, but the teachers are: they do not let you see your papers after exam, most often they don’t give study guides and usually ask questions that they searched online in which they usually either download quizlet or chegg questions or buy test-banks of our textbooks, which are pretty expensive for a student and including questions terrifiyingly unrelated to the lectures they are teaching. Sometimes that makes me feel like they are not testing students on quality but rather “quantity”, if you know what I mean.

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