• Race to a Cure Authors

October Student Success Box #2

Welcome to Race to a Cure's Student Success Question Box #2, where we discuss test anxiety, study habits, and prioritization. Let's get to know the students that we will be hearing from!

Katrina: Hey everyone, I’m Katrina Artes and I’m a grade 12 student from Vancouver, B.C. I’ve had my fair share of academic battles while juggling some extracurriculars like volleyball, Choir, Student Executive, and my AP classes. In my free time, I love watching dramas, listening to music, and dancing. I hope you guys can take away something useful :)

Japman: Hey there! My name is Japman and I’m from Brampton, Ontario. I’m currently a senior in high school looking to pursue a computer science life path. When I’m not busy with school, I’m probably busy listening to music, watching Netflix (nine-nine!), or playing basketball.

Ria: Hi! I’m Ria Patel. I am a grade 10 student at Merivale High School in Ottawa, Ontario.

Image is courtesy of Unsplash

How do you deal with test anxiety?

Katrina: To deal with test anxiety before and during the test I try to practice mindfulness and relaxation. For me personally, before any test or nerve-wracking event, I try to separate myself from other people, listen to soothing music, drink lots of water, close my eyes/relax them, and as much as possible avoid distractions or things that might make me feel drained of energy before the test. Another important thing to do during your test is to practice mindfulness: go at a comfortable pace, if you feel stumped on a question, skip it and come back when you’re more warmed up, write down your thinking and keep organized when writing, and read the questions carefully. Half the battle when writing a test is understanding what they’re asking of you; so be kind to yourself and slow down as you take on any tests!

Japman: Whenever I've prepared for any formal assessment, I have always felt the anxiety to perform well on it. It's usually because of the fear of failure or the uncertainty of the future. My method of dealing with test anxiety usually consists of preparing until I feel ready for the test. My test anxiety kicks in the most during situations where I feel like I'm not prepared. By studying and cramming last minute, I don't have time to complete all of the practice questions (especially the tricky ones near the end of the chapter), and I feel uncertain about my preparation. Because of this, I usually start studying for tests days before I have to write it. This way, I have all the time I need to finish reviewing all of the content. During the day of the test, I think about old stories of performing poorly on any sort of assessment and how it all turned out fine in the end. I remind myself of my resilience and how quickly I was able to overcome the feeling of disappointment, and it helps drain out any negative energy before the test. A positive attitude can be calming before approaching any nerve-racking situation, and it can be used as fuel and motivation to perform well on a test. If you're taking the initiative to study and keep good care of yourself, then you're setting yourself up for success. Even if you do perform poorly, just remember that you're more than what a test score says about you.

Ria: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all my school exams were cancelled last year so I don’t have much experience in dealing with exam stress. However, I have taken lots of tests at school and various exams for my piano education. Personally, when I have a big test coming up, I feel scattered and disorganized because my notes are in disarray and my “study guide” is an entire notebook! Whenever I’ve crammed for tests in the past, the results have never been good. So now, I always try to start preparing at least one week in advance. I am a tactile learner so I found that rewriting my notes to make concise and easy-to-review chunks helps me feel more prepared. Once I have a good study guide, I work through some of the tougher topics by rewriting my notes, creating mnemonic devices to remember key terms (e.g. “King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup” for remembering the taxonomic classification system), mock teaching the topics to an invisible class and meeting up with classmates to test each other. DISCLAIMER: on the day of the test, the butterflies in your stomach won’t stop, no matter how prepared you are! I try to combat this day-of-the-test anxiety by getting a good night’s sleep, keeping my brain fed and doing something simple that I enjoy. Going over your notes right before a test is important, but try to avoid freaking yourself out by trying to stick even more information in your already overflowing head. Dealing with test anxiety is a unique procedure for every individual, but by staying prepared and knowing yourself and your habits, you can make the best out of every test!

How do you build good study habits? What defines "good" study habits?

Katrina: I think good study habits should be defined as being a focused and efficient learning approach that is truly catered to you and what works best for your learning. I think a part of developing good study habits to remember is that it will take time and various approaches to discover what you like most. Think about what type of note-taking system you’d like to have and what methods you are using to apply your knowledge. Some choices that I see in high school would be: some people make Quizlets or flashcards, Cornell notes, study guides, do problem sets, or study within a group. (But to be very frank with you, try to study independently because you’re less likely to be distracted and it’s also better prepared for your test.) Lastly, something that I highly recommend to do to enhance your studying is to learn how to find the key concepts when doing practice questions of a unit and putting more emphasis on that while preparing. As you get older, you won’t have as much time to do all the practice questions (and it’s not always necessary) so you’ll need to study smarter!

Ria: Given the fact that my high school experience has been an absolute trainwreck so far, (my school board was on strike during the fall of 2019 and then COVID happened…) I am working towards finding out what study habits work for me. My definition of “good” study habits are practices that increase the depth, effectiveness and speed at which you learn. Study habits are unique to your learning style and can be auditory, tactile or visual. No matter what study habits you follow, if they are good, you should be learning to the best of your academic ability. Building good study habits requires you to understand your learning style, recognize your weaknesses and utilize your resources to your advantage. Personally, I learn by reading the material, writing it out and creating something with what I’ve learned (e.g. a slideshow, a lesson) but I also get easily distracted by my phone and other things going on around me. Knowing all this, I can create good study habits by dedicating specific chunks of my day to studying, eliminating all distractions and planning my work before I dive in. Recently, I’ve started setting short 15-20 minute alarms to set goals for how long I want to work on something and when I need to switch gears. This is a great tactic for staying on task! Having strong study habits will benefit you during your schooling, but will also set you up to be a successful life long learner.

What does prioritization mean to you and how do you implement it?

Katrina: Prioritization to me is about allocating your time in a manner that is efficient and also more comfortable for you. In other words, I think it’s the art of doing what is enough and nothing more. As much as possible, I like to think strategically and take everything one day at a time with one task at a time. However, when this approach doesn’t work and the nature of your school work seems to be an overwhelming amount, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Though this sounds a little daunting, it doesn’t have to be if you learn to use your limited time per subject efficiently. Similar to what I mentioned previously, you won’t always have the leisure to do all your practice questions. Be strategic; choose a variety of different questions that touch on different application concepts. Or if this is for completing an assignment, work with other students and think creatively of how you can make your workload easier.

Ria: Prioritization is the monster under my bed. It means accountability, time management and choices and I get too overwhelmed to deal with all that. Prioritization means deciding what to spend your time on and maximizing how you spend that time. I have a hard time prioritizing because I enjoy doing a wide variety of things but only have so much time to do them. Prioritizing and planning go hand in hand. By setting long term academic, personal and extracurricular goals, you can prioritize your opportunities to best achieve those goals. I have a hard time choosing what I want to do and end up stretching myself thin trying to do everything. I am working to overcome this weakness by practicing goal setting, both long term and short term, to figure out where I want to go and how I can get there so I can prioritize accordingly. After setting goals, I create a timeline and start following it so I can progress in a timely manner. Setting checkpoints that lead towards my goals help me track my progress and evaluate the direction I am heading in. My grandmother used to joke that she would pray for 25 hours in a day. Sometimes, I feel like the time I have isn’t enough to do all that I want to do. That where prioritization comes in. It is the key to maximizing the use of your time and being productive and progressive. If you take the time to understand how to better spend your time, you may find that the monster under your bed isn’t nearly as terrifying as you first thought.

Final Note

We hope that our second Student Success Box was able to provide you with insightful advice on test anxiety, study habits, and prioritization! We encourage you to keep in mind that everyone learns best in different ways and using different methods. From the various advice given in the article, we hope you can discover new techniques, find out what suits you best, and gain confidence when approaching your next test or exam!

Article Contributors: Katrina Artes, Japman Nagra, Ria Patel

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Stephanie Sahadeo