September 28, 2015

How to Tell if you Have Test Anxiety

Anxiety or nervousness about stressful events is a part of life. It is perfectly natural to be anxious about an event that is important to you, especially one that could make a difference in your future life or job situation. Certification exams and tests, such as Praxis exams or LSATs, become important landmarks in your career path, so it is expected that you would be a bit apprehensive about the experience.

How do you know, though, if your test anxiety is a normal reaction or something that might endanger your ability to pass the test? This depends largely on the symptoms you experience, as well as their severity.

Test anxiety produces symptoms that affect you physically as well as mentally. Physical symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Feeling queasy or faint
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Overall muscular tension Symptoms of test anxiety that affect your ability to think include:
  • Inability to focus
  • Thoughts focused on negative past experience
  • Drawing a blank on answers

While all of these symptoms are natural if they are mild, extreme symptoms can cripple your ability to complete the test successfully. If your test anxiety is severe enough to affect your performance, there are steps you can take to help you make it through the test.

Test Anxiety Questionnaire

Symptoms of Test Anxiety (pdf)

Managing Test Anxiety

If you have thoroughly prepared for your test and are as ready as you can be but still experience symptoms of test anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help manage the physical and emotional symptoms you might experience.

If you can, take a bottle of water with you to the test. Sipping water can help ease nausea and dry mouth. Deep breathing can settle shaky nerves and help increase your ability to focus. Muscle tension might respond to stretches you can perform easily in your chair. It is also beneficial to take a quick walk in the hallway, if doing so is allowed.

Other ways to ease test anxiety symptoms include:

  • Counting to ten or twenty to both distract and focus your mind.
  • Tensing every muscle in your body and then relaxing them.
  • Scanning the test to assess the questions.
  • Starting with easy questions before tackling harder ones in order to build your confidence.

Test anxiety is frustrating and disconcerting, but if you make sure you are prepared and have a few coping techniques ready on test day, you can overcome the symptoms, give your brain a chance to work at its best, and perform on the test to the best of your ability.