What does it feel like to experience exam anxiety?
You paid attention in class, took detailed notes, read every chapter, and even attended extra study sessions.
Then the test is presented, all of a sudden your breathing becomes elevated and concentration is lost. At worse, your brain blanks out the answers to even the easiest questions. Here is my story.
Exam anxiety can occur in different forms right from a week before exams to a minute after the paper.
This is normal as the body produces adrenaline that triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. In this case, there is only fighting to be done, unless you plan to flee from your examinations.
What Is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress in situations where performance tested.
Just like other forms of anxiety, exam anxiety is a spectrum that reflects various symptoms including nausea, sweating, shaking hands, fast heartbeats and debilitation.
While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.
Causes of Exam Anxiety
Fear of failure: If you connect your sense of self-worth to your test scores, the pressure you put on yourself can cause severe test anxiety.
Poor testing history: If you have done poorly on tests before, either because you didn’t study well enough or because you were so anxious, you couldn’t remember the answers, this can cause even more anxiety and a negative attitude every time you have to take another test.
Lack of preparation: If you didn’t study or didn’t study well enough, this can add to your feeling of anxiety.
Expectations: Student expectations are one major mental factor. Peep this, if a student believes that he/she will perform poorly on an exam, he/she is very likely to become anxious before and during the exam.
Strategies for overcoming for Exam Anxiety
After experiencing anxiety during a test, students may become so fearful about it happening again that they actually become even more anxious during the next test, creating a vicious cycle of performance anxiety. Here are ways to overcome that;
- Make sure you’re prepared; Lay an effective study plan and execute it. That means studying for the test early enough to feel comfortable with the material. Being prepared will boost your confidence. If you aren’t sure how to study, click here to assess a definitive study guide that will help you.
- Avoid the perfectionist trap; We all make mistakes and that’s okay. Knowing you’ve done your best and worked hard is really all that matters, not perfection.
- Eliminate negative thoughts; Thoughts such as “I’m not good enough,” “I didn’t study hard enough,” or “I can’t do this,” should be replaced with positive thoughts. “I can do this,” “I know the material,” and “I studied hard”. This can go far in helping to manage your stress level when taking a test.
- Get proper sleep and diet; A good night’s sleep will help your concentration and memory while a proper diet provides the energy to keep the brain performing.
- 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. Making sure you are giving your lungs plenty of oxygen can help your focus and sense of calm.
- Be early especially during the first two days of examinations.
- Familiarize yourself with the venue of exams prior to exam day.
- Slow it down as the first 10 minutes of the paper are crucial. Peruse the instructions and questions.
Exam anxiety can be an advantageous tool that can be harnessed to facilitate decision making and actions taking processes leading up to the successful execution of the examinations.
Exam anxiety never goes away. One can only get acclimatized to it. Even the class toppers get anxious but it is important to avoid falling into the vicious cycle.
After an episode, allow yourself time to recuperate then fish-out the possible cause and thrash it accordingly.
Hopefully these tips will help you go into the exams less anxious and more confident.