The following is a classic example of test anxiety:
You went to class, completed your homework, tackled tough essays and studied. You arrive at the exam confident you know the material. As you take your seat, you start to feel butterflies in your stomach and your palms begin to sweat.
Even though you prepared for the test, your butterflies turn to nausea. You are sweating profusely. You feel lightheaded. Your heart is racing. Your mind is a complete blank. You want to run out of the room.
You may have test anxiety. Read on for causes, symptoms and ways to help you manage test anxiety.
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is one of the performance anxieties – just like when some people get nervous speaking to large crowds or trying something new, but deals specifically with taking tests. A lot of people just aren’t what they call good test takers. Test Anxiety includes the intense panic, physical symptoms, and a completely blank mind that takes the stress of taking a test to another level.
What Causes Test Anxiety?
There are a number of reasons that test anxiety may occur. Here are a few of the reasons:
Fear of Failure: Although working under pressure can be motivating for many, it can be very difficult for students who have issues with self-esteem and are depending on the outcome of a test as a measure of self worth. Fear of failure is a common problem with many kids.
Lack of Preparation: Procrastination and waiting until the last minute or even plain not studying can certainly create stress and feelings of anxiety. This is one of those stresses that can easily be avoided.
Poor Test History: Poor performance on tests can be a habit when previous problems or bad experiences with test-taking cause the “I am going to fail anyway” kind of negative attitude. One or two failures can set a pattern that is difficult to break.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
There are a variety of symptoms that may (or may not) present in the areas of physical, emotional and behavior. Some of these symptoms include:
Physical Symptoms: Headache, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headed and feeling faint can all occur. Test anxiety can lead to a panic attack, which is the sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort where you feel unable to breathe or are having a heart attack.
Emotional Symptoms: Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses. The symptoms come on quickly and will usually follow physical symptoms with that sudden “the bottom just fell out of my world” feeling.
Behavioral/Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are all common responses. Some children get so frustrated that they strike out at whatever is closest, which can lead to other problems besides failing a test.
How can you manage your test anxiety?
The anxiety can get so bad that it makes it hard for you to learn, study or even concentrate. It can effect your grades and even drive you to quit school. Here are some tips that may help:
Be Well Prepared: Don’t put it off until the last minute and expect to cram all night before a test. Start as far out as you can and take it in small increments to fully digest the material and give you confidence. Set up a practice test and get used to going through the same type of testing scenario.
Work on Test-Taking Skills: Always read the directions through before you begin. Answer everything you are sure of first, and then go back to the harder questions. If you have essay questions, practice writing outlines first.
Keep Your Attitude Positive: Your self-worth is not tied to how well you do on a test. Set realistic and attainable goals for your study and for the outcome. When doubt creeps in, turn the thoughts positive. Find ways to reward yourself for reaching your goals and for staying positive.
Tune Your Focus: Direct your concentration on the test and not on other people during the exam. Narrow your focus to the material that you are confident that you know from your good study habits and your positive attitude. Don’t discuss the test with others before the test.
Learn Relaxation and De stressing Techniques: Learn some techniques that you can use during a test situation to help you relax, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
Keep Fit: If you are physically fit and healthy it will be a whole lot easier to handle anxiety and stressful situations. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest at night.
Get Help: Talk with your doctor, counselor or therapist about the problems you have during a testing situation. They may be able to help get you on the right track.
Test anxiety is real and can be very debilitating for the child who goes into a panic attack at every test. Use these helpful tips and talk to a professional about your child’s testing problems.
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