Got Test Anxiety?

homework, test anxiety

What Is Test Anxiety, Anyway?

Test anxiety is really a type of performance anxiety in which a student suffers- to varying degrees- from all or some of the following:

  • unpleasant feelings

  • physical distress

  • emotional nervousness

  • psychological alarm.

Most of us feel a little nervous, worried or stressed before a test or exam. That's normal. Test anxiety, on the other hand, is more serious as it adversely affects the quality of a student's life- yours or your child's.

I have had so many parents tell me that their child knew the spelling words or their multiplication facts the night before a test, but still not do well. "How can they know it before school and flunk the test?" parents want to know.

Blame it on text anxiety!

Test anxiety can show up in a number of different ways:

Too bad test anxiety doesn't guarantee straight As! In fact, one of the most ironic things about worrying so much about a test or exam is that you won't do as well on it as you could. Anxiety prevents you from displaying your knowledge.

One December while in college, I said to my mother, "I can't believe I have a cold during finals!" She laughed and said, "You've been sick for every final you've ever taken." Really? I had not put it together, but my mother was right! (Gosh, I am tired of saying that!)

My test anxiety showed up as a cold. Some students suffer from insomnia, headaches, stomach "issues," sweaty palms, or increased heart rate. I've seen students become so anxious about a test that they get dizzy and almost pass out. Others may break out with acne, even lose their hair!

Mentally/ Emotionally
Test anxiety can temporariyly wreak havoc on your mood and personality. You're angry, depressed, snapping at your friends and family. The problem is that your friends may still be mad at you when the test is over and you are "back to normal."

How to Handle Test Anxiety

You want to deal with your test anxiety before, during and after a test. Practice these tips and techniques over and over again and watch your test anxiety lessen over time.

First of all, try to relax and put the test into perspective. Rarely is one test going to make or break your life. Even the big, bad SAT can be taken again if you don't like your score!

The Week Before the Test:

- Start Studying! Knowing the material will help build your confidence and calm your nerves. My father once told me that if you understand material well enough to explain it to someone else, you'll be able to do the same thing on the test.

Learn how to study and alleviate test anxiety while you're at it.

- Learn a relaxation technique. This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and repeating a comforting phrase. I close my eyes, imagine myself breezing through the test and whisper, "I know this stuff! I know this stuff!" It works for me!

The Night Before the Test:

- Get enough sleep. This is not a problem if you have been studying all week! Plus, staying up late and cramming in more material doesn't work and you won't be at your best tomorrow for the test.

- Stick to your regular routine. Don't let one test totally disrupt your life. Do what you ordinarily do on a Monday night.

The Morning Before the Test:

- Eat a decent breakfast. Try to limit the sugar or you'll crash and burn in the middle of the test. Think protein like eggs or slowly digested carbohydrates such as oatmeal or whole wheat toast.

- Dress in (removable) layers. Classrooms are always freezing or sweltering, and you want to be able to control your own body temperature. Bring a sweater or light jacket.

Right Before the Test:

- Go to the restroom.

- Practice your relaxation technique.

- Look over your notes.

- Breathe. (Don't hyperventilate!)

During the Test:

- Read the entire test and all of the directions. First answer the ones you know to build your confidence. Don't forget to come back to the ones you skipped!

- Do NOT worry about what anybody else is doing. Who cares if they finish before you? For all you know, they didn't study one bit and can't answer any questions! Maybe they're fast writers. You don't care.

- Look over the entire test one more time before you turn it in. In the 8th grade, I once missed a page of questions on a social studies final exam. It still hurts...

After the Test:

- Tell yourself, "I did my best!" and move on.

- Don't talk your classmates about the test. You don't need to hear any one moan and complain about how hard the test was, nor do you want to hear that it was soooo easy. Either way, you'll probably end up worrying.

The best response to "How did you do?" is, "It's over!"

A Note to Parents:

Please don't make your child's test anxiety worse! Kids often mistakenly interpret our questions and concern as criticism and doubt.

So, please don't ask, "How was the test?" as soon as your kids walk in the door! If they bring it up, just listen and let them vent. You might want to ask, "What parts of the test did you feel good about?" and praise what they did well.

Try to find something positive to discuss. Believe me, I know that sometimes this is not easy! You want to see those A+s, but how about the fact that they finished the entire test while in the past they left half the test unfinished?

Finally, ask, "Did you do your best?" If they did, you can say, "Then that's all you can do!"

Teach your children to prepare, do their best and move on.

Be patient! Overcoming test anxiety may take time, but it is worth it. After all, they will be taking tests for a looong time!

For many students, the worst anxiety is math anxiety. Learn how to deal with it and worry no more!

Want to experience some quick test success? Of course you do! Start with Spelling Tests!

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