Here is a systematic way to deal with test anxiety while you are taking the exam.
One quick dad joke and I'll move on. What nation do people hate the most? Exami-nation
I've made a career now of training people for certification exams and beyond. It doesn't matter the person's age, sex or level of education, many people, show visible signs of fear when they ask about taking the certification exam. Many people have talked with me over the last 20 years about trying to take an operator or analyst certification exam with mild to severe test anxiety.
The very first person that I ever helped prepare for a certification exam suffered from severe anxiety. On one occasion, he had traveled from one side of our state to the other to take the exam. And as I recall, his fear was so bad that he handed his exam in within ten minutes of starting it. He had worked himself into a frenzy and couldn't take it anymore. He did not pass naturally. So what should someone like this do?
There are many approaches to handling test anxiety. However, the one approach that has helped many other people is to work through the exam systematically. What I mean is that the test taker will make several passes through the exam, focusing on different procedures with each pass.
So here is a system for slowing down and helping yourself to not "freak out" when taking one of these exams.
1. Before you start answering any questions, take the time to read through the entire exam. Read every word of each question and every answer. Resist the temptation to click or select an answer as you read through the whole exam.
What does this do? Many times people let fear get the best of them. They worry about the unknown questions that lay ahead while they should be answering the problem that they are currently working on. If you take the time to read the entire exam, you already know what lays ahead. Yes, there may be some questions that you are going to have to think about, but you should also know at this point that there are several questions for which you already know the answer. Don't let every click to the next question play out like a horror movie. Go ahead and take a look.
By the way, people argue that there is not enough time to read through the entire exam first. Yes, you have plenty of time. I do this every time that I take an exam and coach others to do the same. No one that I have worked with has ever come close to running out of time.
2. After you read the entire exam, answer all of the questions that you are confident that you know the answer. Don't guess on anything in this pass and don't work on any math problems. Skip those. Only answer the questions that you are sure of the solution. If you have prepared for this exam, you are going to be surprised by how many items for which you can immediately determine the correct answer. You should feel yourself relaxing a bit, as you work through this phase. Relaxing will improve your concentration in the next step. So, relish in this phase a little bit. When you finish this phase, take a moment and a few deep breaths.
3. In the third pass, do all of the math questions. Using MRI scans, scientists have recently shown that we engage a different part of our brain when we solve math problems, regardless of how simple or complex these problems are. So for this third pass, shift into the math part of your mind and work on these together. They all incorporate the same skill set.
Also, I find it easier to rearrange my small amount of space in the exam cubicle to work all the math at the same time. Keep in mind that you have your formula sheets, a calculator and scratch paper that you have to lay out in that small space. So it's better to do it all at one time rather than juggling all of that stuff throughout the entire exam.
4. The fourth pass is reserved for whatever is left over. The questions that you have to think about and any remaining math questions that you are struggling with.
You may have to use your scratch paper to draw out diagrams to answer some of these or try to eliminate the wrong choices and see what is left over for others. Hopefully, you have prepared well enough that there are few of these questions. I often take the time to count these remaining questions. If there are less than 20 or so, I can relax and know that regardless of what happens with the remaining items, I've probably already passed this exam.
5. The fifth pass is a review. Just go back through and re-read the entire exam and verify that you did select the answer that you intended for each question. A word of warning, however; if you are prone to change answers on exams, it would be better to skip this phase and finish the exam.
While I have caught myself making mistakes and changing my answers, I try only to change answers that I am entirely sure of the actual correct answer. The longer that people (myself included) stare at a question that they are unsure of, the more likely they will talk themselves out of the correct answer. Avoid this temptation and trust your original instinct.
While this method is not the only method available to you, I've seen this 4 to 5 step process help hundreds of exam takers. It can help you too. By the way, following these steps is precisely what the person I discussed above ended up doing. He eventually scored higher than I did when I took that same exam.
So, if you have trouble with test anxiety, give it a try. Of course, no method is going to help you calm down and be successful if you haven't first spent weeks preparing for the exam. Don't forget about that and good luck!