Students often blame test anxiety for poor performance on exams. This poor performance is frequently a lack of preparedness for a test (which causes anxiety) rather than test anxiety. However, if several symptoms of test anxiety are present in your life, you may be experiencing the real thing. You may want to consider the following symptoms and keep track of how many apply to you.
Most symptoms of test anxiety are those that happen while taking the exam. The most common symptom is to experience a mental block or freeze up. A person with test anxiety may find the words meaningless while reading test questions. Or a less severe version of this symptom is needing to reread test questions several times in order to comprehend them.
One feeling that is a common symptom of test anxiety is panic. The feeling of panic may come for a person with test anxiety if he or she doesn't know the answer to just one question on an exam. It may also come as time runs out at the end of an exam. Some other symptoms of test anxiety that happen during an exam: worry over your performance compared to other test takers, being easily distracted during the exam, and plotting ways to escape from a test (like sneaking out or faking an illness). Certain other symptoms of test anxiety may appear while you are studying for your exam, while waiting to go to the exam, or during the exam:
You might be worried about failing your exam. You might also get so tired from worrying about the exam that you almost don't care any more about doing well by the time the test date arrives! If you are experiencing the kind of worry and anxiety described in the previous paragraphs, try some of the following techniques to help you cope:
Do something different. For example: get a drink, sharpen a pencil, eat a snack, ask a question.
Tense and relax muscles in several parts of your body, then take several deep breaths with your eyes closed.
Practice calming yourself by saying a couple of sentences like: "This test will not permanently affect my life. I'm going to feel calm and relaxed."
Practice visualizing a calm, soothing scene (such as a beach or mountains) and use this when you feel anxious.
Anxiety is created by expectations or thoughts about what is likely to happen. If you say negative tings to yourself about your abilities, it produces a corresponding negative emotional reaction, anxiety.
Your beliefs about something create expectations about how a situation will play out. For example, if you believe you are not smart, don't know the information well enough, or aren't capable of performing well on the exam, you may negate most of the anxiety. A small amount of anxiety is helpful for performing well!
If you are in doubt about where to turn for assistance, please feel free to call the Counseling Center at 661-654-3366.
This information was prepared by the University of Missouri - Rolla Counseling Center to assist students with academic stress management. Information contained herein was gleaned from on-line publications.