Dealing with Test Anxiety
A few minutes before each of your tests and exams, you find yourself shaking and your mind feels cloudy. You think to yourself; I can’t do this. I’m going to blank. Why do I feel so unprepared? Although many factors can explain these feelings, they sound a lot like test anxiety.
Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety, which takes place when a person feels an immense pressure to do well, such as when they are about to audition for the MacSci Musical or interview for a graduate program. Test anxiety, like other performance anxieties, is not the same as nervousness; rather, it involves a level of stress that hinders your performance on a test or exam.
Test anxiety can manifest itself in several different ways, affecting your physical, cognitive, and emotional states. Physically, you might sweat profusely, have a racing heart, or feel butterflies in your stomach. Cognitively, you might ‘blank’ during the test or have trouble concentrating. Emotionally, you might have feelings of hopelessness or sadness.
If you have noticed these signs and symptoms within yourself, you are not alone. Students in Canada and across the world face test anxiety. Though anyone can be affected by this condition, there are circumstances that make some students more likely to experience it. For example, if someone cares a lot about doing well on tests, they might have anxious thoughts such as What if I forget everything I know? What if the test is too hard? There might be a course in which it is especially difficult to do as well as you’d like to, leading to feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness.
These feelings are very understandable, especially considering the range of pressures felt by students. However, in the moments before a test, they can lead to a lot of anxiety. Studies show that the worrying associated with test anxiety causes the release of adrenaline, a stress hormone. Adrenaline prepares your body for fight-or-flight mode, creating many of the physical signs that are characteristic of test anxiety. It can also affect cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate or think through the problems on a test.
There are several steps that you can take to reduce the worrying associated with test anxiety. What is helpful for one person may not be as helpful for someone else, so it may take some experimenting.
- You could use a little bit of stress as motivation, reminding yourself that you could start preparing earlier. Reviewing well in advance of a test can give you enough time to digest the material and help you feel prepared. If you find that your study methods have not been working for you, check out the Student Success Centre’s top exam study tips for Winter 2021.
- Try and change the narrative. It is important to know that a test, assignment, or class does not define your worth, intelligence, and future. Truly believing this can be a lot easier said than done, and it might be helpful to work through your thoughts with a counsellor. The Student Wellness Centre offers free counselling services for students,.
- Leading up to a test, try to get enough sleep and have some energizing food beforehand, as these might help you concentrate and feel less anxious. Exercising regularly can have similar benefits.
- If you find yourself feeling anxious before or during a test, it can help to have a toolkit of coping practices. Some folks find it helpful to use breathing exercises, which involve grounding yourself by focusing on your breath.
- You can request testing accommodations at Student Accessibility Services (SAS).
By: Shraddha MishraMental Health & Mental Illness