Exam Anxiety: The learned fear of tests

Oh My God! It’s already tomorrow. What is going to happen? What if I forget everything I know? What if the test is too hard? What if I throw up?

These kinds of thoughts before exams are in almost every student’s mind. It’s totally normal to have these kinds of thoughts. It is okay to get a little nervous and stressed before an exam or test, as it can actually help you perform better and be cautious.

However, for some people, it can get too intense. The nervousness one feels before any exam can sometimes get so strong that it can interfere with one’s concentration and performance.

Test Anxiety is known to develop a vicious cycle in an individual, as after experiencing high levels of anxiety in one test, that individual becomes fearful of the same thing happening again, as a result, gets more anxious and upset.

What is Test Anxiety?

Exam Anxiety, commonly known as ‘Test Anxiety' is a kind of performance anxiety, where an individual experiences extreme anxiety and distress before and during exams. It is characterized by fear, worry, tension, and sometimes even feelings of physical illness at the time of the exam.

This type of anxiety can affect anyone from kindergartners to Ph.D. candidates. And if you’re experiencing test anxiety, you might have stress and anxiety even after you prepared really well for that particular exam.

What are the Symptoms of Test Anxiety?

The symptoms of test anxiety one experiences can vary from mild to severe. Some individuals only experience mild symptoms and perform quite well in their exams, and some, on the other hand, can’t even do the whole paper and may even experience panic attacks before or during exams.

The condition of Text Anxiety is not included in DSM-5-TR (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text-Revision), however, some of the following symptoms were observed in students when they face this condition, which is:-

Physical Symptoms include excessive sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, headache, stomach pain, dry mouth, fainting, or nausea.

Emotional Symptoms can include anger, distress, fear, feeling of hopelessness, low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, and/or depression.

Cognitive and behavioral symptoms include negative self-talk, fidgeting, self-doubt, forgetfulness, and/or avoidance of exams.

The severity of Test Anxiety can not only make it difficult for an individual to concentrate but even drop out of school to avoid their source of fear. One can’t even concentrate on the exam and might report blanking out during the exam. The most common symptoms of test anxiety are negative self-talk and trouble concentrating.

Research suggested that an estimated 25 percent of adults, particularly within the age range of 13 to 18years old, are affected by anxiety disorders.

What are the Causes of Test Anxiety?

Everything starts with something, and so does Text Anxiety. There are numerous factors that might lead an individual to experience exam anxiety before and/or during tests.

Research suggests that one of the strongest factors associated with great worry is parental pressure. When parents place a great deal of pressure on their little children, it may contribute to test anxiety. And those children who feel this parental pressure in their minds, are more likely to experience particularly the physical symptoms of exam anxiety during their tests.

Well, the parents are not the sole contributors to Test Anxiety, as there are other factors that can play a major role too.

Lack of Preparation: When an individual procrastinates about failing of exam during the time of the study, it can increase the levels of anxiety during the test.

Fear of Failure: One of the old habits of humans connecting their self-worth to their test scores plays a major of in the levels of anxiety experienced before or during the exams. As one feels a great deal of pressure to perform well and high pressure leads to greater anxiety.

Along with the above-mentioned factors, the source of one’s anxiety can be totally different. However, Text Anxiety is known to develop a vicious cycle in an individual, as after experiencing high levels of anxiety in one test, that individual becomes fearful of the same thing happening again, as a result, gets more anxious and upset. If without seeking any professional help, one gets entangled in this vicious cycle, the individual may start feeling helpless which can later lead to depression.

What are the Test Anxiety Statistics?

Anxiety disorders are common and 18 percent of adults are affected by them, and only one-third population of those affected seek professional help. Research suggested that an estimated 25 percent of adults, particularly within the age range of 13 to 18years old, are affected by anxiety disorders.

According to a research study, text anxiety can occur between 10 to 40 percent of the student population, and this percentage has been observed to increase over time.

Is Text Anxiety Treatable?

The following strategies can come as handy in the situations like these and can help in reducing anxiety and overall increase performance during examination.

1. Equip yourself with Learning Techniques: In this, your school teachers will be helping you in learning new skills or some resources. Using those, or finding new learning strategies will help increase your performance and simultaneously make you feel more relaxed. Some examples of learning strategies are Reciprocal Questioning, Pomodoro Technique, Keyword Technique, etc.

2. Setting Realistic Goals: Sometimes because of one’s surroundings or parental pressure, the individual puts too much on his/her shoulders, which can become difficult to fulfill. Taking baby steps and setting realistic goals can be a helpful measure for test anxiety. For example, Riya scored 52 percent in her last exam, so the next step would be planning to achieve 55 or 60 percent in the next one, and slowly increase the planning as the result is achieved.

3. Challenge Negative Thoughts: The individual having text anxiety would probably assume things, because of which fear of failure becomes overwhelming. Take some time and challenge those thoughts you’re having, think of an alternative explanation for it. For example, if you’re having a thought ‘I always fail in exams’ look for evidence, or another explanation and replace it with something like ‘I’ve taken some steps towards performing well in this exam’.

4. Practice Self-Care: Giving yourself an adequate amount of sleep, proper nutrition, and doing some physical activities is a part of practicing self-care, which will not only reduce test anxiety, but also overall anxiety. And remember to start with baby steps or one day at a time and you’ll feel better.

5. Seek Professional Help: If with all the above strategies the anxiety is not getting better, you can always seek professional help. As sometimes the experience of severe anxiety can cause a lot of damage, and one might feel helpless, so the idea of someone helping you might make you feel better.

How can BluetoYellow help in supporting your mental health?

BluetoYellow is working towards providing quality online counseling sessions to the young population at affordable prices. Our dynamic therapists follow a client-centric approach that creates a safe and confidential space for you to express your emotions and thoughts without any judgment.

If you or you know someone who can be benefited from the blog, forward the page to bring awareness to them.

You can start your mental health journey with the small step of booking an appointment with BluetoYellow today.

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