Test anxiety – How can I successfully overcome it?

Test anxiety is feeling too much tension, nervousness, dread, and worry before taking a test. It’s normal to feel a little anxiety during important decision-making or some other important life events, but too much of it can interfere with our test performance and create insecurity, self depreciating thoughts, or even physical symptoms like nausea, hyperventilation, or fainting.

What is wrong with me?

This is a question most students ask themselves, overwhelmed with inability to control their panicky feelings and fears which start raging as the test time is approaching. Main cause of test anxiety is anticipation of something stressful.

There are two types of test anxiety:

  • rational (when you really know you haven’t studied and are not adequately prepared for test taking)
  • irrational (when you are prepared and have enough knowledge, but you can’t help but panic)

It’s important to know where your fears come from so you can act accordingly and overcome them successfully.

Symptoms of test anxiety

They can vary from increased heart rate, palm sweating and restlessness, to upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, or even loss of consciousness due to a major panic attack. Severity of symptoms usually depends on perceived probability of bad consequences and person’s inability to cope with them.

Test anxiety creates a combination of harmful over-arousals and impacts the person:

 -psychologically (panic, fear, dread, discomfort)

-cognitively (poor concentration, frozen thoughts, disorganization)

-emotionally (frustration, hopelessness, depression, anger)

How can I overcome test anxiety?

If you suffer from it, don’t be too hard on yourself. Around 80% of students (usually graduates) have the same problems as you. Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks you can do to conquer test anxiety and gain control over your emotions, thoughts, and reactions:

-Avoid last-minute studying. This is most common reason students panic. Understand that you don’t have to change this nasty habit all at once; the best success in changing routines or old habits is doing it step by step. For example, start studying every third day, then every second day, then each day. Start with 10 minutes of effective study and then gradually increase it with time. It may not sound important, but being prepared and having control over your study routines is half the battle in overcoming test anxiety.

-Positive self talk. Stop for a moment so you can hear all your negative and self depreciating thoughts. Practice every day and change the “I can’t” and “I just know I’ll never be able to do this” with “I will”, “Of course I can”, “Yes, I’m capable of doing this and it makes me happy”. You might be amazed just how powerful positive reprogramming of the brain can be in gaining self-confidence.

-Get enough sleep before the test. It will help with concentration, you’ll feel more able and confident you can successfully complete the test.

-Avoid caffeine. Caffeine increases anxiety.

-Visualize yourself completing the est successfully. Anxiety comes from visualizing failures; try visualizing your success.

Overcoming test anxiety is possible. With time, you will need less and less effort to control panic and negative emotions before exams. This knowledge and success in self-control is very beneficial. It will not only help you regarding school and tests, but also in many other life situations. It’s always an asset to have good judgment and control over negative emotions and anxiety.


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