What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a debilitating emotional state that causes students to blank out when placed in a test-taking setting. While we have all experienced stress in one form or another, test anxiety takes the normal level of stress we all experience throughout our lives and multiplies it by 100.
Signs & Symptoms
The telltale sign of test anxiety is a paralyzing feeling when confronted with a test. “Your heart beats faster, you feel like it’s hard to get a good breath, your head feels kind of disconnected, it’s hard to think clearly, you might feel hot and sweaty, your hands cold or tingly, you might feel weird or out of it, you might have gastrointestinal distress,” Debra Kissen, Clinical Director, Light on Anxiety Treatment Center says. “All sensations similar to having a panic attack.”
You studied. You took notes. You listened in class. Yet, when your teacher hands you the math test your brain goes blank. You try to reassure yourself that you can do this, but all you can hear is the clock seconds ticking away and all you can see are the other students turning in their test, but you’re still stuck on question one.
For many students this feeling is all too common and it can create a vicious cycle. The student skips the test because of their anxiety, then they skip the next week of classes to avoid the stressor, and the cycle continues. Kissen notes that anxious students sometimes believe they are stupid or have an underlying failure or flaw that makes them anxious, so they don’t want anyone to know about it.
Ways to Combat Test Anxiety
Prepare. “Some people are so anxious about a performance situation that they create a self-fulfilling prophecy by avoiding preparing, and then the reality becomes true, that you should be anxious because you’re not ready” says Chansky. Working with a coach or planner like VIINKO students can approach tests in a structured, organized manner that ensure they feel prepared, ultimately reducing the amount of anxiety they feel on test day.
Self-care. Preparation is important, but ultimately you need to be in the right state of mind to take a test. Being well-rested, well-fed, and calm can make all the difference between normal butterflies and a panic attack.
Focus on the task at hand. When test day arrives, students can block out the internal critic doubting their abilities by taking deep breaths and focusing on what they’re trying to do (take a test) and how they’re going to do it (read the question, highlight the phrases that make sense, and approach the question one step at a time).