We’ve all been there. 

At some point in our lives, our aptitude has been assessed, and this has caused us stress. 

While there is no single cause of test anxiety, it can be influenced by a combination of factors. 

Understanding the root of your specific anxiety can help you identify strategies to manage this stress and perform your best! 

4 Common causes of test anxiety:

Fear of failure: No one wants to fail. There are many meaningful, inspirational quotes that define failure as a necessary step to success, but let’s face it—failing stinks. 

This is the most common cause of test anxiety. It can be especially true for students who are used to performing well in their studies and are afraid that a poor performance will negatively impact their grades or academic standing. 

Lack of preparation: Sometimes you’re just not ready. Feeling unprepared for a test can increase anxiety. If a student has not studied enough or is unsure about the material, he may feel anxious about his ability to perform well. 

It makes sense: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Pressure to perform: Oh, the pressure! Pressure from teachers, parents, or peers to perform well. It can be a lot. Students may feel like they are being judged based on their performance, and this can be very stressful, particularly when there’s anxiety about disappointing those you respect. 

Negative self-talk: You are your own worst critic. 

Negative self-talk, such as telling yourself you are not enough, can increase anxiety. In fact, negative self-talk can largely impact self-esteem, affecting your overall mental health. 

Is test anxiety affecting your performance?

You’ve got it, and now you need to know: will this stress affect my performance?

Unfortunately, yes. When you’re hyper-focused on your negative thoughts and feelings, your head is not in the game. This can lead to difficulty concentrating, poor memory recall, and reduced problem-solving abilities. 

Then there are the physical symptoms: sweating, headaches, and rapid heartbeat. 

Tips for reducing anxiety before, during, and after a test?

Before the Test:

Prep: Make sure you have a clear understanding of the material, and practice answering questions like those you expect to see on the test. If you can find sample tests, study guides, question types, and question stems, use them! Having a better understanding of how the assessment is formatted will help you feel more confident and reduce your anxiety.

Organize: Create a study plan and schedule your study sessions to avoid last-minute cram sessions. Don’t plan to crash course the night before, or even worse, the morning of. You should take those moments to get much-needed rest, so you are at your best on test day. 

Relax: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualization to help calm your mind and reduce anxiety. This could even include exercising, which modifies the breath and distracts from the impending assessment. 

During the Test:

Positive self-talk: Use positive self-talk, such as telling yourself “I am prepared for this test” and “I got this!” Self-talk is your internal dialogue. It assists in the promotion of your self-esteem and self-worth. By hyping yourself, you can reframe your outlook, and dispel stress. 

Stay focused: One question at a time! Try not to worry about the entire test. Whether the assessment is a stack of paper, or a scrolling 95-question computer set, stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. 

Take breaks: Employ the power of the brain break! If you feel overwhelmed or anxious, take a few deep breaths, or move your body. If you can take a short trip to the restroom, do it. Those minutes away may help you refine your understanding, and you’ll come back stronger than before. 

After the Test:

It may seem odd to focus on reducing stress after a test, but sometimes your results take time. The dreaded waiting game! 

Sometimes results are immediate, and maybe they’re not what you’d hoped for. 

Reflect on your performance: Focus on what went well and explore where you could have done better. Having a growth mindset is key.

Reward yourself: Celebrate! Recognize your accomplishments, even if they are small. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, such as a favorite meal or activity.

Relax: It’s over. Regardless of the outcome, it’s done. Find a way to unwind. 

No matter what, know that you are not alone. Test anxiety is a common experience, and many people struggle with it. By identifying the factors that may contribute to your particular stress, you’ll be better prepared to handle it and ace the test!

For more test anxiety tips, see Khan Academy’s “Got test anxiety?” video featuring Sal Khan himself. 

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a supportive and understanding educational environment where your child’s unique learning needs are catered to, consider The Broach School. Our educational approach prioritizes each student’s well-being alongside their academic growth, making it a holistic learning journey. Visit our enrollment page to learn more.