Exam Anxiety is a combination of cognitive-affective responses characterized by physiological arousal and unpleasantness. It’s an experience of feeling an intense moment of fear or panic before and/or during an exam or assessment.
- Being generally a bit of worrier, a tendency to be anxious
- History of poor testing outcomes
- Being afraid of failure
- Competing with others
- Being poorly prepared
- Struggling to cope with parental pressures and expectations
- Evaluating oneself harshly, in negative ways
- You had a bad experience in a previous exam
- You are a perfectionist – anything less than top marks is a failure
- You are not feeling well or you are on medication
- Unrealistic expectations with oneself (I should get 100% or I’m dumb).
Biological causes of exam anxiety :
In stressful situations, such as before and during an exam, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline. This helps prepare the body to deal with what is about to happen and is commonly referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. Essentially, this response prepares you to either stay and deal with the stress or escape the situation entirely. In a lot of cases, this adrenaline rush is actually a good thing. It helps prepare you to deal effectively with stressful situations, ensuring that you are alert and ready. For some people, however, the symptoms of anxiety they feel can become so excessive that it makes it difficult or even impossible to focus on the test. Symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and shaking hands can actually make people feel even more nervous, especially if they become preoccupied with these test anxiety symptoms.
Mental causes of exam anxiety :
In addition to the underlying biological causes of anxiety, there are many mental factors that can play a role in this condition. Student expectations are one major mental factor. For example, if a student believes that she will perform poorly on an exam, she is far more likely to become anxious before and during a test. Test anxiety can also become a vicious cycle. After experiencing anxiety during one exam, students may become so fearful about it happening again that they actually become even more anxious during the next exam. After repeatedly enduring test anxiety, students may begin to feel that they have no power to change the situation.
Symptoms of test anxiety can be observed in your thoughts, emotions, and body. If you’ve experienced these symptoms while taking an exam, you may suffer from test anxiety.
Physical symptoms :
- Nausea or diarrhoea
- Extreme body temperature changes
- Excessive sweating
- Shortness or breath
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Rapid heart beat and/or dry mouth.
Emotional symptoms :
- Excessive feelings of fear
- Feeling of anger
- Uncontrollable crying or laughing
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Crying easily
- Feeling irritable or getting frustrated easily
Behavioural symptoms :
- Substance abuse
Cognitive symptoms :
- Racing thoughts
- \’Going blank‘
- Difficulty concentrating
- Negative self-talk
- Feelings of dread
- Comparing yourself to others
- Difficulty organizing your thoughts
If students feel the anxiety is affecting their performance then it will be a problem. High levels of exam anxiety will interfere with your ability to prepare for, think about, or take an exam. People attempt to avoid the situation by not showing up to the exam, or may endure it but with extreme fear. High anxiety can tip some into a sense of panic: “I just really can’t do this!”.It will also impact the concentration, attention, and memory of students. Students who experience low anxiety may feel a little nervous about an upcoming exam but are still able to focus their attention on their studies or the questions asked during the assessment.
COPING EXAM ANXIETY
Cognitive control :
- Prepare Well: Overlearn the Material
- Practice good time management
- Space out your studying
- Avoid procrastination
- Eliminate cramming
- Use active study techniques
- Review regularly, test yourself
Physical control :
- Get exercise everyday
- Clear out the stress hormones!
- Do something you enjoy everyday
- Practice relaxation techniques regularly
- Avoid cramming the night before tests
- Get enough rest and proper nutrition
- Set up a calm study environment
T.E.S.T. yourself before exams
T – Teach your self positive self-talk
E – Exercise or do something you enjoy every day
S – Support your beliefs with evidence
T – Talk to others about your feelings
Source: University of Texas Learning Center, University of Texas, Austin, 2005.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. During tests
S– Stay focused on the test
U– Use breathing exercises to self-calm
C– Come to the test on time
C– Create a plan for answering questions
E– Execute your plan
S– Stay Active, if you go blank, move on!
S– Stop negative self-talk with positive affirmations!
Adapted from: University of Texas Learning Center, University of Texas, Austin, 2005.
- Plan Your Entire Semester or Course in Advance: Make sure you understand the \’Big Picture\’ for the semester or term and plan each course with this in mind.
- Daily Reviews: Conduct short reviews of lecture notes before and after class.
- Weekly Reviews: Dedicate at least one afternoon or entire evening during the weekend to review all of your courses. Make certain you have an understanding of where each course is going and that your study schedule is appropriate.
- Revise when you are Feeling Alert : Make sure you take time after doing revision to wind down. .Try not to go straight to bed without winding down.
- Budget your time. Make sure you have sufficient time to study so that you are well prepared for the test.
- Try to maintain a positive attitude while preparing for the test and during the test.
- Exercising for a few days before the test will help reduce stress.
- Stay relaxed. If you begin to get nervous take a few deep breaths slowly to relax yourself and then get back to work.
- Take Proper Breaks : Studying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, will make you exhausted – burnt out even – long before the actual exam. Divide your days in three periods of 150 minutes each and revise for two out of the three.
SEPARATION ANXIETY: When children are worried about being separated from caregivers. These kids can have a hard time at school drop-offs and throughout the day. Graphic sign: Isolation within letters
SOCIAL ANXIETY: When children are excessively self-conscious, making it difficult for them to participate in class and socialize with peers. Graphic sign: the gap between word and line.
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER: When children’s minds are filled with unwanted and stressful thoughts. Kids with OCD try to alleviate their anxiety by performing compulsive rituals like counting or washing their hands. Graphic sign: elevated fanatic f, traditional a maniac d.
SELECTIVE MUTISM: When children have a hard time speaking in some settings, like at school around the teacher. Graphic sign: Poor connection within a word.
GENERALIZED ANXIETY: When children worry about a wide variety of everyday things. Kids with generalized anxiety often worry particularly about school performance and can struggle with perfectionism. Graphic sign: multi slant within a word.
SPECIFIC PHOBIAS: When children have an excessive and irrational fear of particular things, like being afraid of animals or storms. Graphic sign: mirror image in letter P.
DO’S AND DON’TS OF DEALING WITH EXAM ANXIETY
- Don’t cram for an exam. The amount you learn won\’t be worth the stress.
- Don’t think of yourself or the test in a negative sense.
- Don’t stay up late studying the night before. You need the sleep. Begin studying a week in advance if possible.
- Don’t spend time with classmates who generate stress for you on test day.
- Don’t take those last few moments before the test for last minute cramming.
To relax and spend that time reading the newspaper or some other distraction.
- Do remind yourself that the test is only a test.
- Do focus on integrating details into main ideas.
- Do reward yourself after the test with food or a movie or some other treat.
- Do something relaxing the last hour before the test.
- Do tell yourself that you will do your best on the test, and that will be enough!
REMINDER: Test anxiety can be unpleasant and stressful, but it is also treatable. If you believe that test anxiety is interfering with your ability to perform well, try utilizing some self-help strategies designed to help you manage and lower your anxiety levels. If you are still struggling to manage your test anxiety, talk to your counselor, another mental health practitioner, or your primary care physician for more advice about treatments that are available.