What is Test Anxiety?
Feeling anxious at test time is very common among college students. Most students experience some level of stress when anticipating or taking an exam. A little nervousness can actually help motivate you, but if the stress becomes too intense, it can affect your concentration and exam performance. It's called test anxiety.
Test anxiety may be part of a general anxiety disorder, but it can also be specific only to a testing situation. Either way, some students, even though adequately prepared for an exam, may experience the following symptoms:
- Physical -- headaches, nausea or diarrhea, feeling light headed or faint, being too hot or cold, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, dry mouth
- Emotional -- excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger or depression, uncontrollable crying or laughing, feelings of irritability or helplessness
- Behavioral -- fidgeting, pacing, substance abuse, avoidance
- Cognitive -- racing thoughts, "going blank," difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of dread, comparing oneself to others, difficulty organizing thoughts
All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful. Like other types of anxiety, test anxiety affects both the body and mind. Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety, a feeling you might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure is on to do well.
If your self-esteem is too closely tied to the outcome of any one test or grade, the results can be devastating. In this situation, you might find yourself spending more time focusing on the possible negative consequences to NOT doing well than you are in preparing to succeed.
Test anxiety can become a vicious cycle. The more you feel anxious about performance, worry about not living up to your own or your parents' expectations or focus on the bad things that could happen, the greater the possibility that you will not perform well on an exam.
Methods to Help Reduce Test Anxiety
Refer to text anxiety tips for information about preparing for and taking your exams.
Refer to text anxiety tips for information regarding test types and assistance for how to respond.
During the Exam
Test anxiety tips also provides advice to help you during the exam.
After the Exam
- Don't dwell on the mistakes you've made.
- Be sure to follow through on the reward you set up for yourself for getting through the test.
- List what strategies worked for you and what things you still need to work on. Continue practicing these anxiety-reducing strategies until you become a pro at them.
- When the exam is returned, review it carefully. If you don't understand what you didn't do well, make an appointment to talk with your instructor about it.
- If you want to discuss your particular situation with test anxiety, see a JCCC counselor.