of us experience some level of anxiety when anticipating something
stressful, such as taking tests, pitching a ball, or performing
on stage. This tension is normal and positive; it motivates us to
want to perform at our best level.
Test anxiety becomes problematic
when this nervousness is so high that it interferes with test preparation
and performance. There are steps students can take to reduce anxiety
to a manageable level.
|What forms does
test anxiety take?
One form of test anxiety results from
such things as poor study habits, inadequate organizational skills,
ineffective time management. When not prepared, it is rational that
the student is then faced with increased tension. This, however, is
not true test anxiety.
test anxiety results when a student is adequately prepared for an exam
but experiences symptoms of physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional
distress that inhibit to some degree the ability to learn and perform.
Both forms of test anxiety can be overcome.
are the symptoms of test anxiety?
test anxiety vary both in nature and degree: some students are mildly
affected and exhibit few symptoms; others experience severe, incapacitating
To ascertain where you might be in the
spectrum, keep track of the symptoms you experience and their degree of
One starting point to this self-awareness is to take the following
test anxiety surveys.
Anxiety Here you will find symptoms of and ways of reducing test anxiety. (West
Virginia University at Parkersburg)
Anxiety Questionnaire (Muskingum College)
Answers to the following questions from
of Texas at Austin can be used to get an idea of symptoms you may
Are you aware of being really nervous
on a test, maybe so nervous that you don't do your best and you lose
points even though you've studied well and are prepared?
Does your stomach ever get tight or
upset before or during a test? Hands cold and sweaty? Headaches? Rapid
heart beat? Muscles tense?
Do you have trouble sleeping the night
before a test?
Do you ever find your mind racing or
dull or "muddy" so that you can't think clearly while taking
a test? Trouble organizing your thoughts? Reading and understanding
questions? Following directions?
During a test do you ever forget material
you studied and learned maybe only to remember it again later after
the test is over?
Do you "overanalyze" questions,
see too many possibilities, choose the complex answer and overlook,
and miss, the simpler correct one?
Do you make many careless errors on
Do you find you are emotionally upset:
crying easily, feeling irritable, getting frustrated quickly?
If you answer "yes" to any one
of these questions, you may be experiencing test anxiety.
If the anxiety you feel is unmanageable and consistent, you are encouraged
to contact your counselor or physician about support services and treatment.
|How can test
anxiety be controlled?
preparing for a test, research indicates that when students have tools and
strategies that build both emotional skills and healthy physical habits
they can overcome test anxiety and the associated symptoms. As a result,
they improve their ability to prepare for and perform on exams.
The web sites
listed below vary in the approaches used to manage the symptoms of test
anxiety. Find suggestions that make sense to you and fit how you learn.
It's important to feel comfortable with the strategies so you will use them,
which is the key to succeeding.
most frequently mentioned strategies address the following areas:
- Knowledge of testing conditions
- Adequate preparation through improvement
of test-taking and study skills
- Effective health habits, exercise, and
- Monitoring of thinking patterns and
Anxiety: What to Do about It
Anxiety: Symptoms; Is Test Anxiety Bad?; Dealing with Thoughts; Dealing
with Physical Tension; Do's and Don'ts This site covers all aspects of test taking. Test Anxiety is on the right of the screen. (Pennsylvania
Anxiety Relaxation techniques (West
Virginia University at Parkersburg)
Test Anxiety Some common anxiety-provoking thoughts; a 4-step
model for reducing test anxiety (North Dakota State
with Test Anxiety/Test Preparation Good also for general stress
reduction (Galladet University)
The 3-Breath Method of Relaxation Simple, easy and it works! (Galladet University)
to Keep Calm During Tests 9 key points—Scroll down to the section on "Anxiety and Stress Management." Also check out the other excellent handouts available here, especially "Top ten Pointers for Final Exams." (University of Texas—Austin)
Comprehensive Overview of Test Anxiety (Guide to Online Schools)
The Science of Success: Be Careful What You Plan For—The best plans for when you're freaking out. (Psychology Today)http://www.howtostudy.org/resources_skill.php?id=16
Panic: The Enemy of Effective Test-Preparedness Common-sense suggestions to offset test anxiety (Test Preparation and Online Education)
How to Study: Test Anxiety Sites Here is an excellent site with lots of handouts on test anxiety. Pick the ones that meet your needs. (howtostudy.org
Resources on Test Anxiety
for Tweens and Teens in Overcoming Test Anxiety
Children Overcome Test Anxiety
Research has shown that providing
students with tools and strategies that build both emotional skills
and healthy physical habits when preparing for a test can help them
overcome test anxiety and the associated symptoms, while improving
their ability to prepare for and perform on critical testing. (American
School Counselor Association)
in class, done all of your homework, studied hard, and you think you
have a grip on the material. But then the day of the test comes. Suddenly,
you blank out, freeze up, zone out, or feel so nervous that you can't
get it together to respond to those questions you knew the answers
to just last night. Spanish translation available (Nemours Foundation)
ASC logo to return to Learning Links Contents.
site was created and is maintained by Barbara J. Speidel, SWC Academic
Success Center Coordinator. @ Barbara J. Speidel
|The ASC logo
was created by Andrew C. Rempt.
@ Andrew C. Rempt