Education - Learning
By: - at July 4, 2013

How to Overcome Test Anxiety

Afraid student test anxietyThe Background: What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness having to do with examinations. Uncontrollable levels of concern, fear and worry are the known reasons for feeling uncomfortable before, during and even after examinations.

Most common among students, test anxiety is a combination of physiological perceptions that include worry, dread, tension and other related pessimistic thoughts, this can destroy a test-takerís ability to comprehend questions in the tests and thus perform poorly on exams. Anxiety interferes with the way students learn. Because it hinders good academic performance measured by tests, it can often lead to issues dealing with the emotional and social development of sufferers, with them not having the ability to be confident about themselves because of their school performance. First studied in the 1950s, George Mandler and Seymour Sarason identified that there are different types of test anxiety which are separated into two categories: general and focused.

Though anxiety at some level is quite normal and helpful to keep students alert, extreme feelings of worry during test taking can become reasons for physical, emotional and even psychological distress. Research shows that students with test anxiety perform 12 % less than their peers who are not suffering from the same issues. This is not because they have learning problems or are suffering due to poor academic preparations, but rather because they tend to feel threatened of test results and are unable to concentrate. When this happens, they lose their focus and it disrupts their memory functions. It is known that about 30 to 40 percent of students have test anxiety. Additionally, those who belong to classes for gifted education tend to be more anxious than those in the regular academic programs.

Test anxiety smashed red pencilSymptoms of Test Anxiety
Though it is normal to feel a little uncomfortable before taking important tests, a chronic feeling of discomfort is a sign of having test anxiety. Affecting people across intelligence levels and age groups, this inability to concentrate during exams is connected to the human instinct of fighting for survival. Whatever reasons there may be, people take the events of the exam as possible challenges or threats and trigger the body to respond.

The following are the common symptoms of test anxiety:

  • Upset stomach - Perhaps the most well-known symptom of test anxiety, many students suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The feeling of nervousness affects the digestive tract. This may include diarrhea, stomach cramps or nausea. It is best that before taking tests, students with test anxiety should eat light and avoid caffeinated liquids. Equally important, they should not take a test on an empty stomach.
  • Rapid heartbeat - This is typically the second symptoms to appear when people with test anxiety are about to take exams. For them, even just the thought of the test causes an increase in their heartbeat. When they are overpowered with this discomfort, they lose control and canít concentrate on answering the questions on an exam. Though increased heart activity may be helpful for circulation, too much of it can cause test blunders.
  • Dry mouth - After all those runs to the restroom before heading to school and the increased heartbeat upon opening the test questionnaires, the hormones triggered by the sudden physiological change can also make the mouth dry. It is wise for students with test anxiety to bring along a bottle of water so they have the needed sips handy.
  • Shallow but rapid breathing - Adding up to the first three quick responses to tests is fast breathing. Because the brain needs enough supply of oxygen to function well, people with test anxiety must counteract this response. It is best to make the best out of breathing exercises to get back on track. Breathe in and out for some moments until it feels better.

Tips on How to Overcome Test Anxiety

The next time you need to take an exam, the following might help you overcome test-induced anxiety.

1)  Equip yourself
Breaking pointNothing else can shake your confidence when you know you are prepared for battle. When you have test anxiety, strengthen your abilities and knowledge by studying the essential things covered by the scope of the exam. Start studying weeks or days before the exam is scheduled. This will give you plenty of time to research further on the things that cause you any confusion.  Improve your study habits by studying smaller bits of information rather than pulling them on an all-nighter. You can even simulate taking the test on your own by taking practice tests available on the internet. As you have conditioned yourself to work under constraints, you will get to adjust with time limits teachers put into tests takers.

2)  Be test wise
Test wiseNot all students who got high scores during exams are intellectually gifted. Although intelligence will help people perform better on a test, it pays to be able to crack the code to answering test questions. When you have anxiety when you are taking exams, learn ways on how to develop your test taking skills. Remember that essay-type questions demand students to pour out the gist of what they have learned subjectively, objective type test like the multiple choice readily gives the ideas out of hints people can find in the passage or question itself. The best starting point for this is to learn to read and understand directions. Additionally, never spend too much time on one very challenging item because you may accidentally run out of time. Answer questions that you know, and return to the skipped items if time permits. When you have to write essays in a limited time period, a good strategy is to outline the ideas you want to include in your composition before writing.

3)  Get enough sleep
Sleep get enoughStaying up and trying to digest everything in one sitting for the next morningís test is absolutely unhealthy. If you have test anxiety, consider the day before the test as your relaxation period. After you have studied the things to be covered in an exam, go out and smell the flowers, and give yourself enough time to regenerate some energy. Go to sleep early the night before your tests. When you get enough rest, you are likely to wake up fully energized and ready to take control of the day. Remember that lack of sleep makes it difficult to manage mood. Additionally, when you are fighting drowsiness, it is difficult to concentrate on the test. Research done by the University Community Hospital in Tampa suggests that teens who get regular sleep have perform much better in school, and develop a positive attitude towards learning typically interacting better with their teachers and classmates. Sleep deprivation on the other hand increases the chances of failing, depression and behavioral problems.

4)  Be positive
Positive thinkingYour attitude will absolutely take you somewhere. When you must take a test, donít let anxiety eat at you. Remember that test scores alone do not define an individual. Develop your self-confidence by being optimistic and prepared. When you maintain a positive attitude towards things, you are also strengthening your self-worth which is an essential factor in overcoming difficulties. When you are looking at an exam questionnaire with your heart pounding so fast, you lose control and everything you have studied shy away. Attack the test with an ďI can do itĒ attitude. With the confidence to face what it takes to pass the test, people exert effort to understand concepts and are more motivated to learn. With the motivation to learn comes the degree of knowledge acquired and the ability to perform on tests with little to no worry.

5)  Keep your focus
Man focusesProcrastinating even with your study times can make your test performance suffer. Though it is healthy to take some rest from your coursework in order to refocus, getting off track is a different story. When exams are approaching, plan your schedules well, focusing on what has be done first. To avoid cramming and sleepless night before the test, learn to decline invitations to parties and hangouts. Instead of spending your energy on socializing, prioritize your lessons. It will also be helpful to keep away from distractions like unnecessary chats or phone messaging. When necessary, turn off your gadgets so you wonít be tempted to set aside the notes you have to attack your upcoming exam. Organize the materials you need for your exams and avoid the same mistakes you made the last time you took the test.

Anxiety-Free Final Thoughts
It is likely that many have experienced some degree of test anxiety in the past.  These symptoms could have been feeling unprepared or worrying too much about your grade on a test, even while you were still taking it. This is especially common when exams are major ones like midterms or finals. This issue is even more serious when one lacks a positive outlook and self-confidence- two very important tools that help students overcome their issues related to test anxiety. Some people, no matter how prepared they were, just canít stop worrying making concentrating almost impossible. Test anxiety does not only influence academic performance but also the over-all feeling of self-worth and wellbeing. Research show that students who suffer from test anxiety tend to drop out of school or survive with unsatisfactory grades. With the present day getting even more competitive and fast paced, success in life or in the job market may be founded on school performance. This generally starts at an early age and reaches even through college. Perhaps, with the demands from both parents and the educational system, students increasingly feel anxious about taking academic measurements and, thus, perform poorly. Because it plays a serious role in creating oneís future, overcoming test anxiety is a major concern.





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