Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations. While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.
Test anxiety affects nearly 40% of students, according to the American Test Anxieties Association.
Similar to testing anxiety is performance anxiety which can occur before a big recital, an important game, or a presentation.
People with testing/performance anxiety tend to experience sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, fainting, or stomach pain/nausea. They may also become fidgety and have a hard time focusing or remembering information, their mind “going blank.” You may feel helpless in these situations.
What can you do? Here are some helpful resources:
- Make sure you're prepared. That means studying for the test early until you feel comfortable with the material. Don't wait until the night before. If you aren't sure how to study, ask your teacher or parent for help. Being prepared will boost your confidence, which will lessen your test anxiety.
- Banish the negative thoughts. If you start to have anxious or defeated thoughts, such as "I'm not good enough," "I didn't study hard enough," or "I can't do this," push those thoughts away and replace them with positive thoughts. "I can do this," "I know the material," and "I studied hard," can go far in helping to manage your stress level when taking a test.
- Get enough sleep. A good night's sleep will help your concentration and memory.
- Take deep breaths. If you start to feel anxious while you're taking your test, breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Work through each question or problem one at a time, taking a deep breath in between each one as needed.
- Avoid the perfectionist trap. Don't expect to be perfect. We all make mistakes and that's okay. Knowing you've done your best and worked hard is really all that matters, not perfection.
You can learn anxiety calming techniques and cognitive exercises to challenge your negative thoughts with a counselor at NormanAid Wellness Center.