Test anxiety and how to manage it

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Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety — a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure’s on to do well.

Test anxiety comes in different forms. Some people with test anxiety might experience any of the following:

  • Sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness or nausea
  • Inability to concentrate during exams
  • Racing thoughts about doing poorly or about other things unrelated to an exam
  • Trouble recalling information on exams
  • Fear that any negative evaluation will reflect badly on your own ability and self-worth
  • Fear of physical symptoms (such as sweating, shaking, etc.) that may occur during tests

Test anxiety itself isn’t a disorder, but it is something that can interfere with doing well on tests.

One of the main causes of test anxiety is feeling like your self-worth is wrapped up in your performance, as if your performance reflects who you are as a person. In other words, it’s a fear that people will judge or define you based on how you do on the test.

This can also be seen as a fear of failure, but it’s not just about worrying that you won’t get good grades. It means that you think that if you don’t perform well, it invalidates all of your hard work and effort. And it might mean that you think others will view you negatively if they know how well (or not) you did on the exam.

There is also the possibility of becoming anxious because you cannot focus on anything at all. This could be because there are so many different ideas floating around in your head (perhaps due to stress) and so many things going on around you that taking a test is impossible until everything settles down.

Another big cause of test anxiety is worry about being ill-prepared for the test. Sometimes this worry is beneficial and can give you the motivation to study much harder, but sometimes it can be very destructive.

It’s important to remember that all you need to do is your best — prepare the best you possibly can and then concentrate and try your hardest in the test itself.

People who experience test anxiety may feel unusually nervous when they have to take a test

If you have test anxiety, you may experience unusual levels of psychological stress and general anxiety when taking a test. You may feel unusually nervous at the prospect of taking a test, or you may not be able to sleep the night before an exam.

Worrying about a test happens to everyone. However, it does not interfere with your performance on any given test. It simply causes you to feel nervous about having to take a test in the first place.

They may feel tired and unable to concentrate or forget facts and information they know.

Some students feel so stressed that they don’t feel like eating. They may even get sick in their stomach.

To manage test anxiety, you can practice taking tests in a lower-stress environment. This will let you learn how your body reacts to stress and practice strategies for coping with it before the real thing. Take practice tests without any time pressure to get used to answering questions calmly and thoroughly. Doing so will help build your confidence, reduce your stress levels, and give you more overall control over your test-taking experience.

Being nervous is not a bad thing, but if you find yourself making really silly mistakes, it’s likely that your anxiety is affecting your work.

Anxiety can be a normal response to stress in certain situations (or “situational anxiety,” such as worrying about an important exam), but sometimes it can become harmful when stress becomes too much to bear (or “generalized anxiety”). These are two types of anxiety disorders.

Situational anxiety is a natural response to certain intense experiences. It can be healthy, even: it’s normal to get butterflies before an important exam or a big presentation at work.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a constant worry about multiple things: your career, family life, the future, and so on. It affects 3% of American adults.

Test anxiety is an example of situational anxiety — not a disorder per se — and is defined as “a form of performance anxiety in which an individual experiences distress when taking tests or participating in related activities that assess his or her knowledge and skills” (APA).

Thank you for reading!

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