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Student Connection

Test Anxiety

Everyone feels a level of anxiety when it comes to taking tests. In some cases this anxiety can be a motivational tool for proper preparation. However, for some individuals the testing experience can be so overwhelming that their feelings of anxiety become disproportionate to the actual event. As a result, the testing situation may lead to unnecessary stress and poor performance.

Do you have test anxiety?

Review the following list of symptoms. Many of these are common traits of excessive test anxiety.

  • Symptoms of test anxiety
    • Physical - headaches, nausea or diarrhea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive sweating, shortness or breath, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heart beat, and/or dry mouth.
    • Emotional - excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, depression, uncontrollable crying or laughing, feelings of helplessness.
    • Behavioral - fidgeting, pacing, substance abuse, avoidance.
    • Cognitive - racing thoughts, 'going blank', difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of dread, comparing yourself to others, difficulty organizing your thoughts.
  • During exams, do you...
    • feel like you "go blank"?
    • become frustrated?
    • find yourself thinking "I can't do this" or "I'm stupid"?
    • feel like the room is closing in on you?
    • feel your heart racing or find it difficult to breathe?
    • suddenly "know" the answers after turning in the test?
    • score much lower than on homework or papers?
  • When performing, do you...
    • become distracted?
    • feel overwhelmed?
    • miss important cues from your surroundings?
    • "go blank" and forget what you are supposed to do?
    • have distracting thoughts of failure or a poor performance?
    • perform more poorly than in practice?

How can you overcome test anxiety?

There are several ways to help you cope if you suffer from excessive test anxiety.

  • Prepare, Be Positive, Relax
    • Prepare - Do your best to review what will be covered on the test. One of the greatest causes of fear is failure. Preparing will help increase your confidence and decrease your anxiety level.
    • Be Positive - Like it or not, you can be your own worst enemy. Positive thoughts about yourself and reasonable expectations about the outcome of the test will help you keep things in perspective. Try the following thoughts when a testing situation arises, "I can do well on this test," "I'm smart and well prepared," "I can handle this."
    • Try to Relax - Deep breathing exercises are always helpful in situations of increased anxiety. Try to breathe deeply and remain focused on the task at hand.
  • Get Help at WCC
    • Instructors - Instructors understand the concept of test anxiety; many of them have experienced it first hand. Share your situation with them so they can help you better prepare for your test.
    • Counselors - WCC has staff that have experience with test anxiety. You can set up a free appointment with them to discuss your concerns and develop coping skills. Visit any of the WCC advising websites for details.

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