Testing Anxiety and How to Overcome it.


All Creative Commons

Testing anxiety affects many students across the nation- so how do we overcome it?

Reese Kanyuh, Reporter

Testing season is coming up, and many students are finding themselves overwhelmed with the stress that comes with it. Research has shown that between 40-60% of students have shown signs of testing anxiety. Test anxiety is a psychological condition where individuals experience severe anxiety or distress during or approaching testing. The intensity of the condition varies between students. Some experience mild nervousness during an exam, while others can become completely incapacitated during or before a test. Physical symptoms of test anxiety can include sweating, shaking, hyperventilation, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, panic attacks, and fainting.

So, how do you overcome testing anxiety? Treatment for testing anxiety is a long process, and may take years of therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. As for short term relief before or during a test, there are many options. Different methods and techniques can work better or worse for different people. If you’re struggling with testing anxiety, the best you can do is see what works for you. With that, here are some of the best strategies to relieve testing anxiety.

  • Avoid falling into the perfectionist trap. We can’t expect to be perfect when we take tests and exams. The effort you’ve put in is all that matters in the end. Remember, tests are about improvement, not perfection.
  • Clear your mind of negative thoughts. One popular method is called the S.T.O.P. strategy. In the S.T.O.P. technique, the user takes the steps of Stopping their thought process, Taking a deep breath, or practicing controlled breathing, Observing the body, thoughts, sensations, and surroundings, and Proceeding with a new level of awareness. The S.T.O.P method is basically advanced mindfulness, a method many teachers have introduced to their classrooms as of recently.
  • Control your caffeine intake. Many students have developed caffeine addictions, which can be detrimental to your routine, schedule, and overall mental state. During testing season, many students use coffee, tea, sodas, and other caffeinated drinks as tools. High doses of caffeine may cause you to be more alert, but can also cause physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, disturbed breathing, and tremors, which can increase feelings of testing anxiety. If this applies to you, consider monitoring your caffeine intake, and using it in moderation. Several studies suggest not consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before you sleep, in order not to disturb your sleep schedule.
  • Get enough sleep. Sounds basic, but a good night of sleep is important for your focus and energy on the day of a test or exam. The best you can do is re-work your sleep schedule instead of relying on supplements and drinks to go to sleep or stay awake. There are classes and articles available to everyone online on the topic of controlling your sleep.
  • Prepare for your test. Find a study routine, familiarize yourself with the materials, practice tests online if you fell like it. Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable going into the test.
  • Keep things in perspective. If you’re taking an exam that could impact your future, or otherwise of importance, testing anxiety can get out of control, and become a big issue. Remember to think reasonably, instead of spiraling. Ask yourself what might happen after the test. Keep your thoughts rational, and within a logical perspective.
  • Talk to your teachers. In most cases, letting the teacher know you’re prone to testing anxiety during an exam, is incredibly helpful. Depending on the teacher, you could get help preparing for the test, or suggestions that could help you succeed in that class.

Beyond the short-term solutions, there are treatments that could resolve testing anxiety in the long-term. For example, advice from the Mayo Clinic. “Test anxiety may improve by addressing an underlying condition that interferes with the ability to learn, focus or concentrate – for example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. In many cases, a student diagnosed with a learning disability is entitles to assistance with test taking, such as extra time to complete a test, testing in a less distracting room or having questions read aloud.”

In some cases, a learning disability can accompany testing anxiety. If you think you might have a learning disability, it’s best to see a professional about it. Another long-term solution for testing anxiety is seeing a professional counselor and getting therapy. Talk therapy with a psychologist or other mental health professional can be extremely useful for those struggling with testing anxiety. If you don’t have access to an outside therapy, try talking to your school counselor. One of the last recognized long-term methods for treatment is seeing a psychiatrist about getting medication.

Overall, whatever works for you is what you should be doing. Testing anxiety is a spectrum, some cases less intense, some incredibly difficult to overcome. If testing anxiety is an issue for you, talk to a parent or guardian about talking to a professional. Best of luck for testing this year, and with that, thank you for reading.