By: Makayla Campbell
Test anxiety is what it sounds like—a psychological state where people experience distress and anxiety, particularly in testing environments. It causes people to not do their best on the test they’re taking, making it a type of performance anxiety. When pressure is on and good performance counts, people can become so anxious that they might not do their best; yet, even being aware of it doesn’t make it any better. If so, what can be done? Where does it begin?
Causes of Test Anxiety:
Getting stressed before a test is much more common than one would think. One cause of this is that people often correlate their self worth to their test score, which makes the student afraid to fail (because then their self-worth lowers). Another reason for test anxiety is that people are scared of repeating their past mistakes, so if they haven’t gotten good test scores in the past and they take another test in that same subject, the weight of their previous mistakes can add unnecessary stress on a person and they may feel like you’ll fail again. Moreover, if they feel unprepared for the test—or believe that they will get a bad score—their nervousness might get worse. Personally, I sometimes tie my self worth with my scores and it's really hard to see the bigger picture when, so often, our impact and worth is tied to a grade. But it doesn’t have to be the end. Remember that you tried, and if you tried your hardest to bring your grade up, then be proud of your persistence, and remember that you are more than a score.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety:
Symptoms can vary from physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. Physical symptoms include sweating, dry mouth, and rapid heartbeat, but it could potentially get so serious to the point where the student becomes ill. Behavioral symptoms could be avoiding the test entirely or taking substances of alcohol and/or drugs to cope with the anxiety. Cognitive symptoms are perhaps having trouble focusing on the test or even blacking out and forgetting everything you just studied. Emotional symptoms can manifest as low self esteem and/or feeling hopeless.
Ways to Treat Test Anxiety:
Test anxiety can be prevented or reduced by being realistic with yourself (maybe reminding yourself that you can still succeed even if you don’t get a 100% on the test or quiz you are taking), and actively trying to reduce the amount of pressure you put on yourself. Make a game plan that includes getting enough sleep the night before the test and making sure you are well prepared. In addition, be your own cheerleader: try replacing your negative thoughts with positive and encouraging ones. Tell yourself you can do it! There are also exercises you can do to help calm your anxiety which include taking deep breaths or counting from 10 slowly, but if none of those seem to help, then you may want to consider seeing a therapist who can help you find ways to ease your anxiety.
No matter what happens, being actively aware of test anxiety can be the first step in finding a way to cope with it. Use these tips and tricks, and remember to breathe and smile—that always helps.
Cherry, Kendra. “Test Anxiety Can Make It Difficult to Do Well on Exams.” Verywell Mind, 25 Mar. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-test-anxiety-2795368.
Tartakovsky, Margarita. “6 Tips for Overcoming Performance and Test Anxiety.” World of Psychology, 8 July 2018, psychcentral.com/blog/6-tips-for-overcoming-performance-and-test-anxiety/.