TEST ANXIETY AND THE STUDENT
by Allison Castellanos
What is Test Anxiety?
Test Anxiety is when a person feels nervous about how he or she will perform on something that is really important.
Do I have Test Anxiety?
Some common symptoms of Test Anxiety include but are not limited to:
- Pounding heart
- Rapid or labored breathing
- Overactive bladder/intestines
- “Tunnel” vision
- Drawing “blanks” on a test
What causes Test Anxiety?
There are both physical and mental aspects to Test Anxiety.
Physical Aspects encompass hormonal, chemical, and muscular changes in the body. It is a “fight or flight” response to a perceived threat. So when you are in a classroom about to take an exam, and start to feel stressed out, you unfortunately, cannot just leave, or take “flight” from the stressful situation. So your body must go into “fight” mode. The effect of these reactions is the interference with your thinking process.
Mental Aspects stem from a lack of preparation and a fear of failure.
The lack of preparation comes from the procrastination from avoiding a hard or uninteresting topic or assignment. Then there is no time to study because of procrastinating, which leads to more stress from cramming. This is all further gets emphasized when you then worry that you will not know enough.
The fear of failure is due to being afraid of what others will think of you and letting yourself down. It can be daunting to always be concerned with what a parent, teacher, spouse, boss, etc will think of you if you do not excel. Furthermore, letting yourself down, can be just as detrimental. This fear of letting one’s self down is extremely common when kids who are used to getting high grades suddenly experience failure for the first time. (Think of the transfer from elementary to middle school or a public school student transferring into a private school).
Overcoming Test Anxiety
It is a good idea to address both physical and mental aspects of Test Anxiety when trying to find a cure.
Physical preparations are important all of the time, but exceptionally so the closer it gets to test time.
Days/Weeks Before Test:
- A balanced diet complete with vitamins
- 8 hours of sleep per night
- Comfortable clothing
- Proper equipment
- Use the restroom before exam
- Eat a proper meal and adequately hydrate before exam
- Be a little early to exam, the teacher often gives a little bit of advice or guidance
Mental preparations begin days/weeks before an exam, but continues right before and during as well
Days/Weeks Before Test:
- Creating a study plan
- Talk to a parent or teacher or trusted mentor, so that you will not feel alone
- Positive thinking
- An accepting attitude (“I have done the best I can to prepare, and I will do the best I can during the exam”).
- Breathing practice
- Remembering Accepting Attitude if you start to get flustered
- (“I have done the best I can to prepare, and I will do the best I can during the exam”).
- Breathing techniques implemented if you start to have trouble breathing
*****If the physical symptoms of your test anxiety are severe, (after visiting a doctor for advice and clearance) you should implement a physical relaxation regiment that would include preparation over several weeks. You visualize yourself going through each of the steps that lead up to the exam (studying, eating well, bringing sharpened pencils, reading the instructions, starting and finishing exam, etc.). At each step that you feel anxiety, you will need to stop and do the physical relaxation technique (an example would be tightening and relaxing of all muscles head-to-toe in a step-by-step process). As you are able to master each of the steps, you should be able to picture yourself doing the planned event from start to finish without experiencing anxiety. This specific regiment will be discussed in much greater detail in a future, more lengthy version of conquering test anxiety.