The first step in dealing with test anxiety is understanding more about its causes. This page contains information about test anxiety, and provides strategies to help lessen its effects.
Models of Test Anxiety
- Thinking about past failures and/or personal weaknesses while studying for a test.
- Feeling rushed or distracted while studying for a test.
- Thinking about parts of the subject you don’t understand.
- Beginning the test.
- Feelings of uncertainty before or during the test.
- Negative self-talk (stinkin’ thinkin’).
- High levels of stress
- Inability to concentrate or study effectively.
- Experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, muscle tension and restlessness.
- Impeded thinking process or memory recall.
- Your score may not represent your actual knowledge of the subject.
Causes of Test Anxiety
Two issues surrounding test anxiety are preparedness and performance. Test anxiety can occur any time form the first day of the lecture up to and including the time you complete the test. A description of cause categories and suggestions for changing or lessening anxiety behavior follows.
This usually deals with the issues of time to prepare, and amount of information. These two issues, alone or together, can cast doubt on your ability to master the situation and information.
Feeling you don’t have adequate time to prepare for the test.
Enough time (actual or perceived) was not spent studying for the test.
Feeling the test covers too much information.
Not knowing how much and what information you should study.
Test anxiety due to performance typically stems from issues of evaluation and low self-confidence.
Feeling threatened by the evaluation process.
Being unsure about what is being evaluated.
Worrying about comparisons to others’ performances.
- Low Self-Confidence
Belief that other class members are more intelligent.
Lack of confidence with the subject.
History of low achievement in similar subjects.
Tips to Reduce Anxiety
- Prepare throughout the semester until you “own” the material.
- Find out as much as possible about the exam.
- Determine what information you need to cover, and divide your study load into manageable, low-anxiety periods.
- Over learn the material. Knowing the information lessens anxiety and allows you to answer questions more easily, even under stress.
- Decrease your stress level by avoiding last minute cramming; get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat right.
- Think positively while preparing for and taking the test. Attitude has a surprising effect on your behavior and performance.
- Arrive early for the test. Get a good seat, settle in, and think about the material.
- Focus on the information, not on your feelings.
- Ignore students who are nervously cramming. Keep your own attitude positive.
- Practice tension-releasers and relaxation techniques. This will lessen the physical effects of test anxiety and improve your performance.