Managing Test Anxiety

Anxiety comes in many different forms—and results from different external and internal stimuli and perceptions. A person’s response to stressful situations can manifest itself as differing behaviors. However, those situations which render people unable to reasonably perform or react to a situation can be a direct result of anxiety. Performance anxiety, visiting medical offices, social anxiety and test anxiety are all forms of reactions which may prevent people from engaging or performing well in everyday situations. Looking specifically at test anxiety, the symptoms of anxiety may be so severe that they reduce a student’s academic ability—preventing them from demonstrating their true abilities and interfering with their ability to meet milestones commensurate with their knowledge. Knowing the symptoms of test anxiety can go a long way in helping individuals cope with—and conquer—their fears. Even when a student performs well on an exam, it does not necessarily mean that there was no test anxiety. In fact, symptoms can range from severe to mild. “Butterflies in the stomach” prior to an assessment is a mild form of test anxiety, but most students will still be able to take the exam without issue. An extreme case of test anxiety could even lead to hives or a panic attack before or during a test. Test anxiety can manifest itself in both physical and behavioral symptoms… and when symptoms are severe the student (or parent) should seek professional help.

Physical Symptoms Of Test Anxiety:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Fainting and nausea
In some extreme cases, an individual may get physically ill either prior to or during an exam.

Behavioral Symptoms Of Test Anxiety

Some students may respond to test anxiety by avoiding school or pretending to be sick… while still others may drop out of school all together. Any type of anxiety may lead to substance abuse or self-medication with the use of prescription medicines, alcohol or other substances such as marijuana. As with physical responses, behavioral responses to test anxiety can range widely from mild to severe.

Learning Issues Related To Test Anxiety

Oftentimes test anxiety is accompanied by such conditions as ADHD, dyslexia, or autism spectrum disorders. Clearly, if a child has a learning disability, attending school may already make them feel anxious. Imagine how they might feel on test taking day… even with IEP and 504 plan accommodations.

Test Anxiety As A Form Of Disability

In some cases, test anxiety can be severe enough to be classified as a disability in itself. In such instances, a proper psychological evaluation is necessary to ensure that the student receives the right academic accommodations, including additional time or testing in a quiet room.

Strategies To Help Alleviate Test Anxiety

  • Preparation and Planning. Have a plan prior to the exam. Give yourself adequate time for studying and arrive at the test site early.
  • Visualization. Mentally practice taking the exam. Find a quiet room, and visualize the exam classroom, the instructor, where you will be seated, taking the exam and finishing the exam on time.
  • Breathing exercises. Try calming yourself when you arrive at the exam by doing deep breathing exercises.
  • Rest. Get a good night’s sleep prior to the exam.
  • Fuel Up. Even if you don’t feel like eating, having a proper meal before a test is important. The brain uses a lot of energy, and having enough calories before the exam has been shown to improve performance.

How We Can Help You?

Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling is here to help you have a better day and find a better way. We treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions for both children and adults. Contact us today, we’re ready to help:

Fayatteville: (910) 323-1543 Fuquay-Varina: (919) 567-0684 Raleigh: (919) 670-3939 Greenville: (252) 375-3322