Tests are a normal, though often dreaded, part of the college experience. It is common to feel stressed or anxious when preparing for or taking a test. These feelings are normal, and at mild-to-moderate levels, can even improve performance.
Most students get nervous during testing, but some students experience test anxiety at a level that is physically distressing and interferes with performance. Test anxiety symptoms can range from minor annoyances, such as forgetting a common formula, to overwhelming and debilitating fears.
Symptoms of test anxiety
If you experience some of the following symptoms while test-taking, you might be struggling with test anxiety.
|– Overwhelming fear or panic||– I’m so stupid.|
|– Nervous worrying||– I’m going to fail.|
|– Feelings of worthlessness||– This is hopeless.|
|– Pervasive negativism||– Why should I even try?|
|– Feeling of impending doom||– I just can’t do (this subject).|
|– I have to get out of here.|
|Physical Experiences||Cognitive/Behavior Patterns|
|– Increased sweating||– Mind goes blank or freezes up|
|– Pounding heart||– Distractibility; poor concentration|
|– Headaches||– Increased errors|
|– Shakiness||– Racing thoughts|
|– Upset stomach||– Overthinking concepts & questions|
|– Muscle tightness||– Second-guessing/changing answers|
What to do if you think you have test anxiety
The sources of test anxiety are poor test preparation, ineffective test-taking strategies, psychological pressures, and poor health habits. Consider the extent to which each of these applies to you, and attempt to make the following changes.
|Focus on test preparation||Relieve psychological pressures|
| – Clarify test formats and contents
with your instructors.
| – Arrive at the exam early and take
time to relax before the test.
|– Know what your instructor expects.||– Don’t discuss the exam with peers.|
|– Ask questions.||– Keep your test goals reasonable.|
| – Review past assignments, quizzes,
and textbook sample problems.
| – Practice affirming statements like
“I’m ready for this test; I can do this.”
| – Create a study guide and practice
tests on exam topics.
| – Use a thought-stopping technique
to manage distracting thoughts.
|– Collaborate with other students.||– Don’t let the test define personal worth.|
|– Don’t cram. Prioritize study time.|
|Use effective test-taking strategies||Practice health behaviors|
| – Learn basic test-taking strategies for
various test formats (multiple choice
vs. essay tests).
| – Plan and manage your study time well,
and get plenty of sleep during the nights
preceding your exams.
|– Read test directions thoroughly.||– Eat a healthy meal before each exam.|
| – Do a “mind dump” when you first receive
the test: write down any formulas or
facts you are afraid you might forget.
| – Practice deep breathing techniques
regularly so you can access these
skills at exam time.
| – Take one question at a time; don’t
focus on the entire test all at once.
| – Avoid excessive use of caffeine,
including energy drinks.
|– Don’t rush; pace yourself to time limits.||– Exercise regularly.|
| – Don’t dwell on questions you can’t
answer. Mark them, skip them, and
return to them later.
| – Take mental breaks and have some fun!
This will actually improve your academic
| – Avoid observing others’ test-taking
behavior. Don’t engage in self-comparison.
Don’t let test anxiety interfere with your success at Rivier University. The Counseling and Wellness Center can help you gain control over this frustrating condition.