Test Anxiety Introduction

From grade school to college, tests are an important part of the educational process. Unfortunately, they can also be intimidating, leading to test anxiety that can adversely change a person's test results.

In the majority of cases, test anxiety is a minor roadblock. After all, most people are a little nervous when taking a test, but that apprehension usually disappears once you become focused on and involved in the test. This kind of mild test anxiety is easily overcome and rarely affects the final results of the test.

However, in more extreme cases, the anxiety experienced when taking formal tests factors into a student's final scores more than his or her knowledge of the topic being tested. Some students are so paralyzed by test anxiety that they feel no amount of study or preparation will enable them to pass an exam, regardless of how important that exam might be. This realization can be disheartening and demoralizing and, in extreme cases, can cause these individuals to give up on their goals if achieving them requires taking any sort of formal test.

For those whose academic or professional career goals depend on being able to pass a milestone test such as a certification exam or the SAT, this is not good news. However, there are many ways to combat, manage and even defeat test anxiety so that students plagued by this debilitating problem can successfully make their way through stringent exams. Once people can gain control of their anxiety, they can focus instead on answering test questions to the best of their ability, allowing their knowledge, experience and dedicated study to shine through.

Since success in formal tests can be a major stepping-stone toward success in your chosen career, you will want to do everything you can to ensure that you have the best possible test-taking experience. This web site is designed to help provide strategies for dealing with test anxiety, from test preparation to coping strategies that will help both before and during the actual test. Some of these strategies will be specific to the actual task of taking a test, while others will help improve your outlook and even your overall health. Factors you might not consider, such as exercise, stress and diet, can have more of an influence on your ability to perform well on a test than you might think.

Using the information and tips presented here can help you achieve your long-term education goals. It is never too early to begin preparing for your education, and by the time major tests come along, you will be ready to face them with ease.

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What Is Test Anxiety?

A certain amount of anxiety when preparing for a test is normal. Test anxiety is similar to stage fright. Most people experience it to some degree, but some have developed better ways of coping with it or simply do not experience anxiety to the same degree as others. Those who do not experience test anxiety might not understand how debilitating it can be for those who do.

Severe test anxiety, though, can lead to paralysis during a formal testing situation. No matter how hard or diligently you have prepared, suddenly you cannot remember any of the information you studied as you take the test. Faced with this blank slate, you freeze up even more, and a vicious circle develops. In the end, you are unable to translate the knowledge you know you have to answer test questions correctly.

Symptoms of severe test anxiety are also similar to those suffered by people who have anxiety disorders. In fact, students with generalized anxiety disorders are more likely to experience severe test anxiety as well. Many of the coping techniques recommended for anxiety disorders are also useful inanxietydealing with test anxiety.

Symptoms of severe test anxiety can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Cold and/or sweaty palms
  • Rapid breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

These physical symptoms can result in:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to understand what you are reading on the exam
  • Inability to organize your thoughts in order to answer the questions
  • Inability to remember subjects even though you have studied them thoroughly

If you are frustrated and debilitated by test anxiety, you might feel as if you will never be able to overcome it. As a result, you might feel that you are unable to achieve your life or career goals. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome this issue. By making use of these techniques, tips and lifestyle changes, you will find yourself well on the way to overcoming test anxiety and reaching your full potential.

Sources of Test Anxiety

Text anxiety can stem from various causes.

One of the most common of these is simply a lack of preparation. If you know you have studied thoroughly and efficiently yet still face debilitating test anxiety on exam day, the condition could be brought on by other factors.

One major source of test anxiety is brought on when past experience begins to overwhelm present experience. Bad testing experiences in the past build upon one another, until you become convinced that you cannot take a test successfully. Almost as if it were a conditioned response, the sight of a test paper causes you to become anxious, upset or even nauseated. Your mind goes blank and you cannot recall answers, even if you studied them thoroughly.

Another source of test anxiety can come from comparing yourself to others. If classmates seem to be having an easier time grasping the course material, you might see this as a shortcoming on your part and start to feel as if you will never be able to master the material and pass upcoming tests. Again, a level of frustration sets in that can lead to the same kind of downward spiral.

Dealing with the Sources of Test Anxiety

Both these sources of test anxiety have something in common: They originate from external causes. You may have bad past experiences with testing, but you cannot know for sure that you will have the same bad experience in the future. You assume that others are having less difficulty learning the material than you are, but you could be mistaken. Your classmates might be battling the same difficulties you are.

The best way to deal with these sources of test anxiety is to focus on the present and have confidence in yourself. You cannot control past test experiences, but you can control present and future experiences. By focusing on your own preparation and knowledge of the test material, you can ensure that you will feel

in better control of your test experience. The only way to improve your ability to pass the test is to focus

on your own studies and your reactions to stress.

By focusing on the here and now, you will be better able to manage your test anxiety, and you might even find yourself enjoying life in general a little more.

Study Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety

One way to battle test anxiety is through prevention.

A large part of prevention is preparation, as many cases of testing anxiety stem from a lack of preparation. In this situation, you find yourself faced with a complex test and realize that your study regimen has not been adequate enough for you to pass the test with flying colors.

Ensuring that you know the course material before test day helps build your confidence and makes it easier for you to recall the correct answers while you are taking the test. The best way to prepare, of course, is to study.

Efficient Studying

Many students focus on the amount of time spent studying. When it comes to effective studying, though, quality often counts more than quantity. In fact, increasing the quality of your study time can greatly reduce the amount of time you have to set aside to hit the books, as well as greatly increase your overall mastery of the material.

Tips to Ensure Quality Study Time

Just reading through course books, notes and handouts does not always provide the best coverage of the necessary material. One of the best ways to increase the quality of your study time, and thus reduce test anxiety, is to ensure that you use your time efficiently. Here are some ways to increase the effectiveness of your study sessions.

Space out your study time.

Spending an hour each night looking over the day’s notes and assigned materials is much more effective than “cramming” the week—or even the night—before the test.

Focus on the most relevant materials.

Most textbooks include material that will not be covered on tests. Paying attention to what material is stressed in class can help you narrow down what sections of the textbooks should receive the most attention.

Study with a friend.

Having someone else quiz you on test material can help you with quick information retrieval, which can build your confidence. As an added bonus, you can help your study pal in the same way

Using these tips, as well as others found on this website, can help you increase the efficiency of your study time. Knowing you have studied in the best and most thorough way possible will help you approach the test with confidence—and without test anxiety.

Last Updated: 06/10/2014