What Is Test Anxiety And How Can I Manage It?
While a little nervousness about a test can be normal, excessive stress, agitation, and stress before an exam may indicate a mental health concern. If intense fear or anxiety interferes with your ability to take an exam, you may be experiencing test anxiety.
Testing anxiety is a type of performance-related nervousness and fear that affects individuals regarding assessment experiences. The anxiety may become extreme, causing emotional and physical symptoms affecting an individual's concentration ability. Due to these symptoms, those affected may struggle to complete a test or focus during an exam. However, there are strategies that may help you overcome test anxiety.
Symptoms Of Test Anxiety
An individual experiencing test anxiety may have physical and emotional symptoms.
A rapid heartbeat
The feeling of "butterflies" in your stomach
Emotional symptoms of anxiety may include:
Increased irritability or anger
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Urges to run away from or avoid a situation, person, or thing
Distressing, repetitive worrying thoughts
Shame or embarrassment
Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. However, anxiety symptoms may significantly impact an individual's ability to focus on a test.
What Causes Testing Anxiety?
Research shows that hormones called adrenaline and cortisol are released into your body upon triggers of stress or anxiety, often causing a "fight or flight" response. If testing triggers your stress or fear, you may experience the physical and emotional symptoms of these chemical processes when you think about taking a test.
The cause of test anxiety can vary. Some individuals have high expectations for themselves or worry about perfectionism. They may have a history of performing poorly on tests or have experienced pressure from peers or family to perform well academically. They may fear making errors or not performing up to others' or their own standards.
Additionally, some students may experience anxiety from feeling unprepared or struggling with a learning disability or mental health condition that impacts their testing process. For example, someone experiencing ADHD may struggle to focus during long tests and could experience test anxiety due to this. There may also be an anxiety and depression association.
Managing Test Anxiety
Test anxiety can vary from person to person. However, it often makes it difficult to focus and perform well on a test. Distress from the effects of anxiety may worsen testing fears. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your test anxiety and increase the chances of a positive testing experience.
Before the test, properly prepare yourself for the material. Try not to procrastinate studying until the night before, as this may increase your test-taking anxiety. Begin studying weeks before the test to ensure you have enough time to review the material several times.
Find An Effective Study Strategy
Everyone may learn and study differently. Try to find an effective study strategy that works for you to retain information effectively. For example, you may start studying earlier in the day if you're a morning person. Additionally, you can read through study tips and find methods that work best for you.
Talk To Your Professor
Speak to your professor before your exam. You may be able to ask questions about what to expect on the test or clarify any fears you have. If your teacher knows feel anxious, they may be able to offer tips and tricks for testing in their class.
Sign Up For Testing Accommodations
If you are diagnosed with a mental health condition, you are considered to have a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Schools are required to offer reasonable accommodations to those who request them.
Your school may have a disability center to reach out to. After providing your mental health or physical health diagnosis through a doctor's note, your disability coordinator may speak with you to come up with testing accommodations unique to your needs. For example, you might receive extra time on tests, a separate testing location, or assistive technology during the test.
Accommodations can relieve test anxiety in those fearful due to symptoms of their mental or physical health condition. If you feel pressured by testing time limits, an accommodation to extend your time may benefit you.
Practice self-care before your test by eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and spending time with your social circle doing activities you enjoy. There are also some relaxion techniques that may help reduce your anxious feelings around testing. Take some time before your test to practice deep breathing or mindfulness exercises. Self-care can be essential for your mental health and overall well-being. You may perform better on your test if you feel mentally and physically well.
You may require extra help to deal with symptoms of test anxiety. If you have overwhelming stress about test-taking, it may be beneficial to seek help from a therapist, especially if there is an anxiety or depression association. In some cases you may be able to text anxiety questions or challenges when they come up, and have your therapist reach out within a day or two. Additionally, you may reach out to a tutor if you are struggling academically.
How To Manage Stress On The Day Of The Test
On the day of your test, consider following these test anxiety tips.
Getting a good night’s sleep on the day before your test can benefit you. Studies show that proper sleep is essential to health and public wellness. You may also feel more able to think clearly on test day if you have slept and rested your brain.
Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. It may also be beneficial to skip caffeinated and sugary drinks on the day of the test, as they may increase feelings of fear or anxiety.
Gather Your Materials In The Morning
To reduce stress before the test, prepare by gathering necessary materials like paper, pencils, or a calculator. Consider bringing earplugs if you get easily distracted by noise.
Running late may increase testing anxiety. Leave your location early to ensure you don't face any issues arriving at the testing location. When you arrive at your testing site, practice deep breathing or on-the-go mindfulness.
During The Test
If you're feeling high pressure, try to tell yourself this is one test. Your test score does not define you or determine your self-worth. Try to stay calm by relaxing your body and practicing deep breathing. Stay in the present moment and focus on the current task—don’t worry about what other students are doing. Focus on one question at a time, read carefully, and break it into smaller chunks.
If you can't answer a question, move on to the next question and return to it. Focus on the current task and avoid getting distracted by others around you. Try not to consider your grade. Numbers or scores do not necessarily define your future success.
If you or a loved one is experiencing overwhelming fear around test-taking that affects your ability to perform, you may be experiencing test-taking anxiety. Although there are steps you can take on your own to reduce the symptoms, other resources are available. You may benefit from reaching out to a therapist.
Scheduling an appointment with a traditional counselor can take time. You may have to factor in commute time, work, and school schedules. Online therapy may be valuable if you're looking for a flexible option. You can sign up for online counseling in a few minutes and start therapy as soon as 24 to 48 hours after signing up. Additionally, studies indicate that online counseling is effective in treating anxiety symptoms.
Consider signing up for an online platform such as BetterHelp for adults or TeenCounseling for teens. They can provide strategies and guidance for overcoming your test anxiety, so that you can feel confident and stay focused when test day rolls around.
Commonly Asked Questions
Below are commonly asked questions related to testing anxiety and tests.
What Are Signs Of Test Anxiety?
Each student may have different symptoms of test anxiety. These symptoms could include cognitive symptoms, such as:
Ruminating about past occurrences of poor academic performance
Having negative thoughts about the consequences of failing
Experiencing a "blank" mind during tests
In addition, you might have physical symptoms, like:
Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
Some students may experience panic attacks before tests. When these reactions happen, their stress level becomes so intense that they may feel they can't breathe or are having a heart attack. Panic attacks can be a symptom of a panic disorder.
What Are Three Causes Of Test Anxiety?
Three potential causes of test anxiety may include:
Fear of not living up to the expectations of yourself or others
Believing your academic grades define you as a basis of self-worth
Tunnel vision or feeling mentally "stuck"
Is Test Anxiety A Real Thing?
Test anxiety is real. It is a form of performance anxiety related to test performance. Anxiety is not nervousness. When exams begin, you may have a stress reaction, and your body can release adrenaline as part of the fight or flight response.
Is Test Anxiety Serious?
Anxiety is a serious mental health condition that can cause distressing physical and mental symptoms. Severe test anxiety may impact your life negatively. People with test anxiety may fail tests or struggle to focus during exams. It could become a cycle of nervousness, failure, and anxiety. Some students may skip tests to avoid failure or anxiety.
How Can I Calm My Test Anxiety?
During your test, take several deep breaths. As you breathe deeply, think positive thoughts about yourself and the test. Tell yourself you know all the answers and feel prepared, even if you don't believe it. Focus on the test questions rather than your performance.
Does Test Anxiety Affect Scores?
Peer-reviewed studies have suggested test anxiety does affect test scores. However, this is not the case for everyone. Practicing self-care, reducing anxiety through coping skills, and talking to a counselor may increase your chance of performing well on your test.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Many factors may contribute to an overwhelming emotional reaction to exams. If you fear failure when it comes to assessments it could add to your exam stress. Some individuals may strive for perfectionism and have high expectations, which puts a lot of pressure on them to do well during an exam. A lack of preparation or a poor exam history can greatly contribute to this nervousness for some individuals. Outside pressure from family and peers may also be a factor in extreme exam stress.
It is normal to feel nervous before an exam, but if these feelings become overwhelming and affect your abilities, you may be experiencing assessment nerves. Test-taking nervousness is the feeling of distress related to exams, which impacts your ability to study or perform during the assessment. Assessment stress will cause an individual to experience both physical and emotional symptoms that can greatly interfere with concentrating and taking an assessment.
When exam stress becomes extreme, the sole focus becomes their fear of failure and getting a poor grade. This takes away from the individual’s focus on the actual exam, making it more difficult to perform well. Research shows that assessment stress can negatively affect the actual outcome of the exam, resulting in a lower grade. Individuals who have lower levels of stress tend to perform better on exams.
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What are the 3 causes of test anxiety?
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Can test anxiety be cured?
How serious is test anxiety?
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How common is test anxiety?
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