What Is Test Anxiety (And How It Affects Students)
An upcoming test or exam can be a stressful time for any student.
Many students experience some amount of stress and anxiety before and during exams. However, test anxiety is more severe, and can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.
Because of this, it’s important to know how to identify test anxiety in your child so he or she can learn how to deal with it.
Keep reading to learn more about test anxiety and how it can affect students.
What Is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is more than feeling a little nervous before a test. For students who struggle with test anxiety, a bit of pre-exam nervousness turns into debilitating feelings of worry, dread, and fear, which can negatively impact performance.
Students can struggle with test anxiety at any age. For many students, test anxiety rises sharply in students in Grades 2 to 4 and remains high as they move through middle school and high school.
The Effects Of Test Anxiety On Students
According to the American Test Anxieties Association, “schoolwork” and “exams” are reported by students as the most stressful thing in their lives.
It’s easy to dismiss test anxiety as something that is simply part of being a student. However, left unchecked, the effects of test anxiety can take a toll on students.
In fact, students who struggle with test anxiety typically fall a half a letter grade below their peers. In addition to academic impacts, text anxiety can affect a student’s mental health, including lowered self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.
Test Anxiety Facts
Causes Of Test Anxiety
There are a number of things that can cause test anxiety. Usually, these causes can be broken down into situational causes and mental causes.
- The pressure of timed tests
- Intimidation of taking tests in a crowded classroom
- Poor study skills or a lack of preparedness
- A history of stress related to test taking
- Lack of understanding of the material
- Previous poor test performance
- Fear of poor grades
- A feeling of lack of control
- Fear of letting down others (parents, teachers)
- Placing too much emphasis on single tests and exams
- High expectations of his/her own performance
- Using grades as a reflection of self worth
- Poor self-esteem or negative self-talk
Who Is Likely to Have Test Anxiety?
Even the best students can struggle with test anxiety. There are typically two types of students who are likely to have trouble with test anxiety:
The High Achieving Student
Students who have high expectations of themselves or who are perfectionists are likely to struggle with test anxiety. These students tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and have a hard time dealing with mistakes. This can easily lead to these students becoming overwhelmed during the test, resulting in their mind freezing or going blank.
The Underprepared Student
Students who haven’t properly prepared for a test are also likely to deal with test anxiety. This usually happens because the student put off studying too long or simply does not understand the material. This can lead to low confidence when it’s time to take the test. And when students go into a test thinking they’re going to fail, it can lead to it actually happening.
Does Your Child Suffer From Test Anxiety?
Signs Of Test Anxiety
- Freezing or “going blank” during tests
- Worrying about forgetting material while studying
- Feeling like he or she has never done enough to prepare
- A feeling of doom or fear of failure during tests or exams
- Difficulty concentrating while studying for upcoming tests
- Putting off studying for tests until the last minute
- Performing well in class or on homework, but failing to do well when tested
- A lack of confidence
- Physical symptoms before a test
Even when your child has prepared and studied the material, he or she freezes and is unable to recall information when it’s time to take the test.
Your child worries that he or she isn’t prepared or will forget everything even though he or she has studied and knows the material.
Your child spends excessive hours studying and worries that he or she will fail no matter how much he or she has done to prepare.
Your child becomes stressed or upset talking about upcoming tests and is preoccupied with thoughts of failure.
Your child has a hard time staying on task when he or she sits down to study. Instead, he or she becomes frustrated or overwhelmed by the thought of the upcoming test.
Your child avoids studying for tests and will procrastinate until the very last moment (usually the night before).
Your child knows the material when he or she is in class or working on homework, but gets poor grades when tested on the material.
Your child goes into tests with negative thoughts and gives up without really trying. Your child may think “what’s the point, I’m just going to fail anyway”, leading to a cycle of low grades and more stress.
Test anxiety can result in physical symptoms, including a racing heartbeat, headache, lightheadedness, and even nausea. Your child may complain of an upset stomach or any of these other symptoms leading up to a test.
Overcoming Test Anxiety Starts With Understanding It
Once you have identified whether your child is struggling with test anxiety, you can start taking steps to overcome it. Our study skills tutors can help your child develop test-taking skills that help build confidence so your child can perform his or her best.