Test Anxiety and How to Overcome It
What is test anxiety?
Wikipedia defines test anxiety as a combination of physiological, over-arousal, tension, and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophe, that occur before or during test situations. It is a kind of physiological condition where extreme stress, anxiety and discomfort during and/or before taking a test.
A lot of people experience stress or anxiety before an exam. A little nervousness can actually help you perform your best, but when this anxiety becomes so extreme that it interferes and cause you to perform badly in a test or an exam, it can be called test anxiety.
Causes of test anxiety?
Possible causes of test anxiety include;
Fear of failure :- The pressure to do well in tests could help to motivate you to perform better, but it can have a bad effect on individuals who tie their self-worth to the outcome of their tests. The period of uncertainty could do a lot of damage because they end up overthinking and eventually don’t do well in their tests.
Lack of preparation :- Some people wait until the last minute to start studying for their tests, they start to force a lot of things into their brains all at once or some of them do not bother to study at all. This usually leaves them feeling very anxious or overwhelmed and this is where the anxiety kicks in.
Poor test history :- Having a previous bad experience with test or exam taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests.
Symptoms of test anxiety
Symptoms of test anxiety (according to ADAA) can be physical, emotional, or behavioural/cognitive.
Physical symptoms :– Signs that could be seen on a person with test anxiety include; headache, nausea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, feeling faint, light-headedness etc. It could also lead to a panic attack (sudden episode of intense fear or anxiety and physical symptoms, based on a perceived threat rather than imminent danger). It makes people feel like they are unable to breathe or they are having a heart attack.
Emotional symptoms :– Having a feeling of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.
Behavioural/Cognitive symptoms :– Difficulty in concentrating, thinking negatively, and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.
How to overcome test anxiety
Here are some tips to help you stay calm in the days leading up to, before and during your test.
Be prepared :- This may seem like a normal thing to say before taking a test, but it is important to keep emphasizing on it. There’s a certain confidence that comes with being fully prepared for a test before walking into the hall to write. Go over your books and avoid stacking them up till last minute, this would make you a lot calmer while going in for the test.
Try to get adequate sleep :- It is important to not try to cram and spend all night doing that before your test, it is never the right answer, instead it can make you nervous because you start to think of all that you have to do and all you think you have not covered yet. Having a good night sleep (about 8 hours per night) is likely going to be more beneficial to you than trying to re-read a book till morning, you may even end up feeling too tired the next day.
Eat :– Try to have a nutritious breakfast before the test and if possible get a snack to eat to enable you have the much needed energy. Try to eat food that gives you energy and are healthy, not junk because they might give you a sort of sugar rush in the beginning and then it would be followed by a crash.
Go to the site of the test early :- Make sure you try to get to the class early. Don’t feel rushed as it would make you nervous and unsettled. Get everything you need for the exam or test ready the night before and set your alarm so you can get out of bed on time.
Develop a positive mental attitude :- Try to be cheerful and think about what makes you happy and what gives you confidence and try to sustain the mood. Have the positive ‘I can do this’ attitude. Give yourself your morale-boosting pep talk or anything that works to keep you cheerful.
Read carefully :- Make sure to read all instructions carefully (for an essay) and go over the answers properly before making a choice (for a multiple choice question). It can be devastating to use so much time and energy to answer a question and end up realizing that the essay was off course or that you were solving for the wrong variable.
Keep calm and start :- When you are through reading the instructions carefully, make an outline and start writing. Try to find the questions you know very well and answer them first, this could help to boost your confidence.
Mind your work :- Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing, it may seem like everyone is writing rapidly and you may start to feel like you are missing something, what do they know that you don’t? Forget about all of that and mind your business, it would help you stay in focus.
Pay attention to the time :- Here’s something you should be conscious of, the time! Having to realize that you’re out almost of time and there are a lot of things left unanswered can make you disoriented and you end up not doing anything meaningful in those final minutes. Before starting, try to look at the questions and mentally allocate how much time to spend on each of them. If you can leave out time to go over your answers that makes it even better.
Be positive :- As much as it may seem difficult, try to relax. Learn to take deep breaths as it can help calm you down. Concentrate on breathing, while thinking positive thoughts. This would go a long way in helping you get over this nervousness.
Remember that test anxiety can be a normal part of schooling; this can make you able to handle and overcome it easily. Try to build up your confidence level and don’t forget to be prepared. Stay calm and don’t tie your self-worth to your test results. You’ll be fine!