How Students Can Deal With Test Anxiety

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How Students Can Deal With Test Anxiety

Test anxiety occurs when a student is too anxious about the exam that keeps them from doing well. / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123rf


Students usually anticipate their exams with feelings of nervousness, stress, and anxiousness. On some level, their nervous anticipation may help improve their test performance. However, if they become extremely anxious about their upcoming test and this keeps them from being able to do well on the exam, they may be affected by a condition known as Test Anxiety.

Based on a research conducted in 2010, it was discovered that 10% to 40% of students suffer from this psychological condition. Another study reveals that depending on whether a student has good or bad working memories, their test anxiety either made them have higher or lower scores on their tests.


What is Test Anxiety?

Test Anxiety is defined by Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, as a psychological condition that makes individuals feel great distress and experience anxiety in situations where they have to take exams.

This is also noted to be a type of performance anxiety which affects many people in academic institutions such as kindergarteners and Ph.D. candidates. Even those who have prepared for the test may experience this.




There are also several triggers to Test anxiety. Factors that may cause a person to acquire this condition are:

Poor study habits

They may have had a track record on scoring low in exams because of their anxiety or being unprepared. Their intense anxiety may have caused them to forget the answers. This can cause them to develop a negative attitude towards tests.

Being too afraid of failing may have also contributed to their Test Anxiety. Associating their self-esteem with high exam results may cause them to have this condition because of the pressure they put on themselves.

Biological causes

Since they consider taking a test a stressful circumstance, their body’s natural reaction is to go into a flight or fight mode. This may cause them to produce the hormone adrenaline. This response of the body makes a person ready to either confront the stressor or try to avoid it. Most of the time, adrenaline helps them to manage their stress effectively. It makes sure that the body is alert and prepared. On the other hand, it may cause them to have difficulty focusing on their exam. This may also be accompanied by a variety of symptoms such as nausea and sweating and as a result, it increases their nervousness.  

Mental causes

This may also be caused by being stuck in an anxiety cycle when taking exams. As an illustration, if a student thinks they are likely to fail their test, they tend to be more anxious before taking it.

Experiencing anxiety in one test situation can trigger them to become more afraid of repeating the anxiety-inducing experience. When they keep experiencing Test Anxiety, they may feel powerless about their situation.



Individuals who struggle with Test Anxiety may experience a combination of different symptoms which may consist of panic attacks, physical symptoms, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, and emotional symptoms. According to Healthline, some of the signs that a person is affected by this type of anxiety are:

Physical symptoms

The physical signs that show when a person is affected by Test Anxiety include getting headaches and feeling lightheaded or as if they are about to faint, experiencing stomach pain, shortness of breath and having a quick heartbeat. They may also feel nauseous, vomit, and have diarrhea. This may even turn into a severe panic attack.

Cognitive and behavioral symptoms

Taking exams may cause them to squirm. A serious case of test anxiety may trigger to stay away from circumstances in which they have to answer tests. This may also cause them to drop out of school so that they can avoid taking tests.

There are reports of some students who succumb to substance abuse as a way to cope with their anxiety. They may try to take downers like alcohol and have an overdose of prescription medication.

They may also experience completely forgetting what they have studied even though they have prepared for the test. They may also have a hard time concentrating, have an internal negative self-talk and have racing thoughts.  

Emotional symptoms

When thinking about the exam or trying to prepare for it, they may become fearful, angry, desperate and stressed. They may also experience a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt. They may also feel extremely hopeless.

Before the exam, they may feel restless, fidgety, and nervous. Due to their anxiety, they may struggle with focusing on their studies or their exam. They may feel as if their thoughts are all mixed up and they may have a hard time recalling the lessons they’ve learned. This may also lead them to be indecisive. As they answer their test, they may have difficulty deciding which answer is correct.


If a student thinks that they will fail the exam, they will be more anxious and stressed. / Photo by: sabphoto via 123rf


How to Overcome Test Anxiety

Strategies that Mayo Clinic says may help lessen their anxiety as they take or prepare for their exams include:

Learn effective study techniques

They may try to attend special skills classes or look for resources that could help them study better. Being educated about more effective study techniques and strategies in answering exam may help improve their performance in tests. If they find a systematic way of studying the lessons that will be part of the exam, this will help calm them down.

Study in the same place and earlier than the exam schedule

They should try to avoid last-minute studying and review their study material some days or a few weeks before their exam schedule. Consistently studying in the same location or in similar places may help them remember the information they need during the exam.

Have a pretest routine

Find a pretest routine that they are comfortable with. If they are able to maintain this pretest preparation procedure, this will reduce their stress and help them get ready.

Consult the teacher

They should be able to know the process of the exam and how to be prepared for the test. They may discuss with their teacher how taking tests triggers their anxiety. The teacher may then be able to give them advice on how to do well on the test.


Talking with their teacher is one of the ways to overcome the anxiety where the teacher can give advice on how to do well on the test. / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123rf


Learn relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques can help reduce their anxiety. Doing some deep breathing exercises, visualizing a good result, and relaxing their muscles can cause them to worry less.

Eat properly and drink plenty of water

On the examination day, they should eat properly to boost their brain function and drink plenty of water. They should refrain from drinking sugary and caffeinated beverages. Sugary beverages can cause their blood sugar to reach extremely high levels then drop very low, while caffeinated drinks may worsen their anxiety.


Doing aerobic exercises often as well as on the exam day may help relieve them of their nervousness.

Sleep well

Getting enough sleep will also help boost their academic performance.

Address any learning disabilities they may have

Finally, if they have other learning disabilities that may partially be the reason why they have Test Anxiety, they should try to seek treatment for these. Conditions such as dyslexia or Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should not be ignored.

Students who are struggling with a learning disability should be given more consideration. For example, while taking the exam they should be given assistance or allow them to have more time to answer the test. They may also be transferred to a more peaceful room or have the questions read to them out loud.



For students who want to be able to stop being extremely distressed about their exams, they may try to consult their school counselor or seek the help of a primary health physician. They may also choose to go through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which may assist them in changing the thoughts that make them anxious about taking tests and their behavior towards exams.



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