You’ve done all of your homework, you understood the material in class and when you were studying at home; but, on the day of the test, you freeze and your mind goes blank. We’ve all felt nervous before a big test. That’s perfectly normal; in fact, a little bit of anxiety before a test can actually help your performance. However, some students can get so nervous that it negatively affects how well they do no matter how prepared they are. This is known as test taking anxiety; test taking anxiety is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms, typically associated with anxiety, that can cause you to perform poorly on a test. This type of anxiety doesn’t only apply to testing situations; you may experience this before a job interview, an important presentation, or a big game. Despite all of your preparation or practice, your anxiety may prevent you from doing the best you can.
So how do you know when you’re experiencing test taking anxiety?
Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways. Some people may experience physical symptoms like headache and nausea, emotional symptoms like extreme stress and fear of failure, or behavioral symptoms like trouble concentrating and procrastination. These symptoms may present themselves in a wide variety of combinations all of which can hinder your success. Your testing anxiety may also be caused by a history of failing or doing poorly on tests, and, while perfectionism may seem like a good thing, the idea that you have to be perfect or that you have to get an A can ultimately be the reason that you don’t do well.
When you’re under stress your body activates it’s fight or flight response, this is your body preparing you for a potentially dangerous or stressful situation. Negative thoughts can emphasize that response and make you feel worse.
So what can you do about this?
Prepare – Test taking anxiety might happen no matter how much you study or practice, but it is always best to prepare yourself and know the material well. Students who feel that they need to do well on an exam but know they haven’t prepared enough are very likely to experience test taking anxiety. It is essential to have a study plan in place so you are properly prepared for your test.
Take a deep breath – Exams can be very high pressure situations. To reduce any tension you may feel, get to the testing site early, find a seat close to the front of the room to limit distractions, and practice deep breathing.
Practice positive affirmations – After you’ve studied and prepared yourself for the exam, nerves and negative thoughts of failure may be your downfall. So, practice positive, encouraging phrases that will motivate you rather than worry you before a big exam. Try saying, ” I know this. I’m prepared. There is no reason to be scared.”
If you feel like your anxiety is persistent and affects your everyday life, you may want to think about seeking help from a mental health professional to manage your symptoms. If you feel like your anxiety is too much to handle, seek help.