Test Anxiety: The Ins, Outs, and Everything In-between

by Josie Griffith contributor

Test anxiety can be extremely difficult, some would even say paralyzing. And as we all know, testing before you’re ready or properly informed can create all kinds of problems in the future. As WellMind.com, a mental health and wellness awareness site says “While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance” But the good news is that there are several ways to help prevent test anxiety, and what’s more, there are even ways to help get rid of it for good!

Let’s start by addresses what test anxiety looks like and the behaviors that surround it before we dive into the ways that you can help students get out from underneath of it.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of test anxiety can be physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional. That means that when students are preparing to take a test, if they suffer from this kind of anxiety then it will not always look the same with each student.

The physical reaction can include sweating, a dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach (yes, those are real!) shaking and in some extremely rare cases, students can also get physically sick if they are starting to test. The bottom line is that this kind of reaction, while it might seem dramatic from an outside perspective, is a major pain point for students everywhere. It doesn’t just come from one class or subject, it comes from underlying issues and it’s not always easy to address them if you don’t know where to look.

There’s also a long list of emotional symptoms that are directly related to test anxiety. It can cause low self-esteem, depression, fear of moving forward, anger, as well as feeling belittled or even belittled themselves. The physical symptoms of course can be alarming and scary to watch. But the emotional reactions are even worse because we can’t see them.

Now that we know what test anxiety can look and feel like for different students I every classroom, let’s talk about the ways that students can get a grasp on their anxieties and be able to study and take any test or exam without the smallest doubt in themselves or their abilities.

One small thing to take into consideration is being prepared. Of course, that sounds like an obvious answer, but sometimes that feeling that weighs most students down can be completely changed if they feel like they know exactly what’s going to be on the test and they have studied and gone over the information over and over.

Getting a good night’s sleep can also help relieve some testers feelings of the unknown. Being well rested can help with the focus of the test, and it also allows student to have a level and clear head. Again, while these solutions might seem very simple, they can and do work in a lot of cases.

Another solution, and this is a big one, is accepting mistakes. There’s a lot of pressure. Not just in a classroom and school setting, but once student get out into the real world, the path is not always going to be paved. So, a great thing to remind yourself or your child, is that no one is perfect and there is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to get every answer right, but as long as you are focused and give it your all, you’re going to do great no matter what.

The last solution that is important to address and talk about is for students that feel like basic tips and helpful advice just isn’t enough. Having an emergency test anxiety plan is a solution that might just help those who are suffering from extreme anxiety. Basically, what this plan tells us is that there is a small list of things that induvial can do to really talk themselves out of having a kind of anxiety attack. This can be used in normal scenarios as well, but for the sake of this article, let’s think about the ways in would positively affect students. It’s just a small list of actions that one can take. Things like taking a deep breath, mentally telling yourself that you’re okay, accepting the anxiety as normally and not singling yourself out, and lastly, squeezing your hand into a small fist and then releasing it, all of these things are proven to help students who are really struggling during testing hours.

Overall, there’s no end all be all cure for test anxiety. The truth is, it happens to almost everyone at some point in time. The trick, and this goes beyond just testing, is that you as a student or as a parent, just have to find ways to manage it. And that can be as simple as sleeping well the night before. But taking care of yourself mentally and physically, as well as having ways to calm down once you have the exam in front of you, all of these things can really help.


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