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Test Anxiety in Students: How to Accept and Appropriately Address it in Time

Submitted by on January 14, 2018 – 8:24 PM

Girl-with-Test-AnxietyMerely passing in exams is not enough for students nowadays. Everyone wants to secure good grades, and so students preparing for an exam are often under a lot of pressure. Test anxiety is a common phenomenon that happens before, during, or after the test which involves feelings of tension, or uneasiness. Many people experience this anxiety as a motivating factor in some ways as it creates the pressure that is needed to stay focused on studies. However, in some cases anxiety become so intense that it may lead to disruptive symptoms which have a negative impact on an individual’s performance.

The reason for selecting this topic for discussion is that every student aims to become a high achiever, that is why it is very frequent for them to experience test anxiety thus leading to both physiological and psychological consequences but no one is actually aware of coping with these stressors. Consequently, exhaustion from this mental pressure forces many students to commit suicide. According to World Health Organization, in 2002 an estimated more than 15000 students committed suicide in Pakistan and 50,000 to 150,000 students attempted suicide.


Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which an individual feels extreme distress and anxiety over testing situation. Making it very difficult for them to perform best. According to American Test Anxiety Association, 20% of school going student have severe form of test anxiety and 18% of student have a moderate form of test anxiety (Strauss, 2013). There are many factors contributing to test anxiety which involves internal factors as well as external factors. Internal factor includes lack of preparation or having focus on only few subjects due to difficulty in managing time.


Some students build anxiety due to high expectations of themselves regarding their performance on the test. Some other students are perpetually worried that something bad will happen or uncertainty that they cannot achieve anything or grades matters a lot for a good personality, having fear of failure, and poor test history can lead to negative mindset and it have influence on their future tests. Moreover, irregular sleep and diet pattern may also contribute to test anxiety. Apart from that, external factors involve parental expectation and comparison of their grades with others, competition among peers, any sudden loss or change in environment may interfere with coping mechanism, relationship problems, financial issues and lack of motivation that also hinder students’ performance.


A survey was conducted by The Child Line National Exam Stress revealed that 96% of 1300 students feel anxious about exams and their revision, 59% feel anxious because of parental pressure and 64% of 1300 students say that they never receive any support for exams. Based on these statistics the Child Line forum reported that students having anxiety repeatedly may end up in substance abuse and self-harm as the only way to cope up with their stressors.


Test anxiety can impair a child’s overall functioning in terms of physiological, emotional, cognition, and behavioral aspects ranging from mild to severe effects. Firstly, when someone is under stress, such as students in exam time, their body releases a hormone, adrenaline which triggers fight and flight response and results in physiological changes in our body like headaches, nausea, diarrhea, extreme sweating, changes in body temperature, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, light headedness and sometimes fainting. Emotionally that child will have fear of failure, disappointment with their performance and feelings of hopelessness which can progress to depression and thoughts of suicidal ideation can indulge into his mind. These children may uncontrollably laugh, cry and react aggressively.


Moving towards cognition impairment, children may have difficulty in maintaining concentration, during exams they may go blank often and have negative self-talk which has an influence on their thought process as well, they may think negatively and will compare themselves with others. They may perceive low academic progress as a bad thing instead of focusing on how to improve. Upon encounter with a testing situation they start fidgeting, and pacing which express their nervousness.


Moderately severely anxiety may interfere with individual’s eating, sleep and toilet habits. Their academic performance declines when they do not cope with these stressors, some may resort to cheating on exams as an alternative to route to high scores. Every student may experience different symptoms during testing situation but if this anxiety progresses unchecked, there is a risk that a person may end up in substance abuse or committing suicide (Cizek & Burg, 2006).


There was a case of a 16-year-old girl in Abbottabad, Pakistan, who had an annual exam but she failed to answer one compulsory question and was very upset. As she returned from home she repeatedly told her mother that she would fail the exam. Next day she found her father’s pistol and shoot herself. She was then rushed to hospital but did not survive, unfortunately (The Express Tribune, 2016). In my opinion, her parents could work here to reduce her anxiety level by supporting and motivating her that getting good grades are not necessary for life but learning from those will help in our academic development. Any student that fails in exam should focus for improving themselves rather than ending up their life as the girl did this case.


There are multiple ways to cope with test anxiety and their consequences. Before the exams make sure you discuss your test content with particular faculty for any queries, manage your time effectively and review your work overtime rather than cramming, stay focused on your work and use relaxation techniques if you become exhaust from workload, take necessary rest between studies hour and maintain adequate sleep and diet pattern. Lastly, stay positive and test yourself with multiple different problems.


In the exam, first read the instructions carefully then attempt the questions that you already know. If you get stuck somewhere or blank out just start writing; this will trigger the answer in your mind. Lastly, don’t rush to finish your paper first. Before prepping for the next exam, it’s okay to indulge in relaxing activities for a while. Express anxiety to parents and friends to assure support system.


Parents can play an important role in managing their child’s schedule and removing negativity during exams time. Children with test anxiety will feel irritable, they will not sleep or eat well, frequently complains of headache, stomach ache and nauseated. To combat this anxiety, provide your support or just offer a tutor which can help them with their studies, provide balanced diet for your child: Consuming too much fats, sugar and caffeinated foods and drink will them moody, hyper active and irritable.


Work on external environment avoid making unnecessary noise. Ask them to sleep at least 08 to 10 hours because sleep will benefit you more than rushing to studies at last moments. Have a calm and flexible family environment. The most important and main thing for parents to remember is not to add pressure for securing good marks. The Child Line says that many children who are stressed out for exams is due to family pressure. It is the family’s duty to ask them about anxiety and tell them that being nervous is a common part of examination. Reward them for every achievement as it motivates them to work more hard.


Schools and institutions should focus on different strategies to make studies interesting like teaching through videos, flow charts, role plays etc. Avoid criticizing a weaker child for less marks instead of that help that child to identify and improve their learning needs. Minimize burden of home assignments. Appreciation is must to recognize their strength. Take a review class before any test. Parent counseling is important to the child’s progress. Help children to engage in group studies to help learning with fun. Faculty should not judge any student on their grades rather helping them in their problems. Counseling departments should be there in schools and proper implementation should be taken.


In the conclusion, excessive worrying over exams and getting nervous before, during and after the exam is characterize as test anxiety. This is found more in females as compare to males and it is cause by different internal and external factors most commonly family pressure and poor test history. This pressure is considered normal as in mild form, but it can worsen to severe stages if a child becomes anxious for a long time which forces them to involve in substance abuse and life threatening behaviors like suicide. It is very important to cope with these stressors by different study techniques and relaxation techniques and parent’s role to help their child in reducing those anxiety and provide extreme support rather than asking for good grades. Schools and institutions also need to modify their teaching techniques so that students will gain interest in their studies. Lastly keeping in mind that failures are a natural and healthy part of the learning process.



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