Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.
What Is Test Anxiety?
The term test anxiety is used to describe the physical and mental symptoms that some people experience before, during, and after taking a test. Test anxiety is more than just nervousness. It can be a combination of physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, feeling sick to your stomach, dry mouth, and dizziness. Test anxiety can also be mental symptoms such as trouble concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, racing thoughts, or forgetting what you are supposed to know.
Test anxiety might arise in any type of situation where you are expected to perform well and someone is watching you do it. This could include tests in school or on the job, athletic competitions, performances in front of an audience like music recitals or plays, and even public speaking experiences like giving a toast at a wedding or making a presentation. Not everyone experiences test anxiety when they have to perform in front of others and not everyone who takes tests has test anxiety. But for those who do experience it, the stress of taking a test can make it difficult to concentrate and focus on the task at hand which may cause them to do poorly on the test.
Test anxiety isn’t just frustrating; it can actually be detrimental to your mental and physical wellbeing. If you’re getting close to taking an important test and are suffering from test anxiety, the time to nip it in the bud is now! While test anxiety can feel overwhelming, even paralyzing at times, there are certain techniques that you can use to control it and put yourself in a good position to succeed on your exam.
Test anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors including your personality type, how much control you feel you have over your performance on the test/event (internal or external locus of control), previous negative experiences with tests or other public performances, and stress. Many students report feeling stressed before tests that they perceive as important or difficult, but remember that all important exams are difficult and stressful to some degree.
Here Are 10 Symptoms of Test Anxiety That You Should Know!
- Difficulty in Concentrating
- Nervous Habits
- Muscles Tension
- Choking Under Pressure
- Nausea and Upset Stomach
- Sleep Problems
- Stress Headaches
- Muscles Cramps and Twitches
1. Difficulty in Concentrating
Difficulty in concentration is the first symptom of test anxiety. When the mind is cluttered with worries and distractions, it is unable to focus on anything. The worry and anxiety interfere with the brain's ability to focus on what it needs to do in order to solve the problem at hand. A good way to deal with this type of test anxiety is to eliminate other distractions such as worry, fear, and lack of knowledge or understanding.
One way to eliminate concerns and fears is to practice relaxation techniques. After all, when you are relaxed you are more likely to concentrate better on any task that you need to do. There are many different techniques that can be used for relaxation, but almost any technique will work well for test anxiety if you focus on relaxing your body and mind at the same time.
One of these techniques is that students with test anxiety should avoid distractions such as conversations with peers or looking out the window while they take tests. They should ask their teachers to explain directions carefully and ask for clarification if they don't understand something.
Students can also try studying in a quiet place away from distractions when preparing for exams. If this isn't possible, they can use earplugs or listen to soothing music through headphones to reduce distracting noises.
2. Nervous Habits
Looking for nervous habits is one of the ways to detect test anxiety. The most common nervous habits are biting your nails, twirling your hair, tapping on a pencil or your feet, and wringing your hands.
Nail-biting is the most common nervous habit for everyone, not just people with test anxiety. It is often used as a coping mechanism for stress and boredom. It can also be done unconsciously because it has been developed over time as a bad habit. Nail-biting may develop into a serious disorder called Onychophagia where the person bites off their nails and eats them.
Twirling hair around your finger or chewing on the end of it can also be common habits that develop into more serious conditions such as Trichotillomania where you pull out your hair and even eat it.
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Tapping on anything while you are taking a test can be distracting to yourself and others around you. This behavior can make you feel like you have an extra source of energy that needs to be released in some way before taking the test.
Wringing your hands is another nervous habit that results from feeling anxious about taking a test. This behavior can show how worried you are about taking a test and trying to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
The only way to get rid of nervous habits during test anxiety for good is to stop doing them. If you can't stop, try replacing the habit with another one that doesn't bother other people and isn't going to cause you any physical harm.
Forgetfulness is another visible symptom of test anxiety. Normally, one might remember a lot of the information that was taught about a particular topic, but when it comes to test time all of that information is forgotten. Along with this, students may also forget to write something down on a test that they knew, or they may not be able to recall an answer even though it was just learned. Test anxiety can also cause physical symptoms like sweating, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea and dizziness. These symptoms are the result of hormones in the body known as adrenaline and cortisol being released into the body at higher than normal levels due to the stress associated with taking a test.
The good news is that by taking a few simple steps, you can reduce your test anxiety and improve your performance.
Start by understanding your anxiety. Make a list of the things that are making you anxious about the upcoming test. Then, talk to someone about those items—either a teacher or counselor or a trusted friend or family member. You may discover that some of the things on your list aren’t worth worrying about, or that there are ways to address them before the test occurs. For example, perhaps you’re worried about being able to finish the test on time? If so, talk to your teacher about taking timed practice tests in class so you can learn more effective strategies for completing tests in the allotted time frame.
Next, focus on what you do know instead of what you don’t know. To do this, make a list of all of the things that you have learned since starting school. Reviewing this list will help put into perspective how much information you actually have retained over time and remind you that there is a lot of knowledge that is already stored in your memory — it just needs to be accessed during test time.
4. Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is one of the most common symptoms of test anxiety.
There are several kinds of muscle tension. You may feel physical tension when you're sitting for a test and can't answer a question. If you get frustrated with yourself for not knowing the answer, you may tighten your muscles, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders.
You may feel muscle tension as a result of worrying about the consequences of not doing well on the test. For example, you might worry about your grade in class or what your parents will think if you don't do well on the test. Muscle tension from worry can affect any part of your body.
If you have muscle tension during tests, it's important to learn ways to relax.
To be able to learn, you must first relax. The first step in this exercise is to consciously relax your muscles. Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose for three seconds. Let your shoulders rise as you inhale, and drop them as you exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue breathing deeply until you feel a sense of relaxation begin at the top of your head and work downward. You may feel a tingling or warm sensation in the areas that are relaxing first.
Now, concentrate on relaxing your face, starting with the muscles around your eyes and working downward to your jaw and neck.
Next, relax the muscles in your arms and hands by letting them hang loosely at your sides. Feel all tension leave the front of your body down to your legs, then down to your feet.
Inhale deeply through your nose once again, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Open your eyes and sit quietly for a minute or so before moving on with other tasks.
5. Choking Under Pressure
One of the most common symptoms of test anxiety is choking under pressure. This means that you simply cannot perform as well on a test as you would be able to in a relaxed setting. Whether it be panicking and forgetting what was learned, or nervousness about doing well on a test, these are all very common symptoms. While these symptoms may affect your grade on an individual assignment or quiz, they will also affect your performance during final exams.
If you have already experienced choking under pressure while taking exams at school, then preparing for them isn’t going to do much good; however, if you haven’t experienced testing stress yet, then there is plenty that can be done to help prepare for it so that when it does happen (and it will), then hopefully you won’t have such bad symptoms from it.
One of those ways to help you get out of choking under pressure is to figure out why it is that you are so nervous. What caused you to freeze up? Was it because there was an audience, or was it because you hadn’t reviewed what would be on a test before sitting down for one? Are there certain topics that make you nervous while taking tests, or do they all make you feel nervous?
Once you have identified what makes you feel nervous, you can begin to work on ways to get over that fear. If there is an audience, then you should do practice tests in front of a mirror or with friends watching. This will help your mind get used to it, so when test day comes around and there is an audience present, it won’t bother you as much.
6. Nausea and Upset Stomach
Nausea is another symptom of test anxiety. You may feel sick to your stomach or actually throw up due to the increased stress on your body as a result of test anxiety. Throwing up will temporarily relieve your nausea, but it will not resolve the underlying cause: test anxiety. In addition, vomiting is a stressful event in itself, so after throwing up you will be more stressed than before.
If you have an upcoming exam that is causing you a great deal of stress and resulting in nausea, try taking an over-the-counter antacid, such as Tums or Rolaids. The calcium carbonate in these products can help relieve mild symptoms of acid reflux, which may be contributing to your nausea.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat nausea and indigestion. You can take ginger in capsule form or simply eat a few pieces if you have fresh ginger on hand. A cup of chamomile tea may also soothe your upset stomach and provide relief from nausea. If you don’t have any fresh ginger or chamomile tea on hand, try an over-the-counter remedy such as Pepto Bismol, which contains safe levels of ingredients that are effective at treating mild digestive problems.
7. Sleep Problems
Sleep problems are not a direct cause of test anxiety but they can compound the problem. If you are suffering from test anxiety, it is important to get enough rest the night before your exam.
Sleep problems can make it difficult to concentrate during your test and recall information. It is hard to study or retain information if you have not had enough rest.
Most students with test anxiety also suffer from a lack of confidence. This problem can be magnified by sleep issues. When you do not feel rested, you will feel more anxious about taking your test. You may find yourself doubting your ability to pass an exam even if you are well prepared for it.
To avoid sleep issues, try these tips:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
- Find a consistent time for studying. This will also help you go to bed at a regular time each night.
- Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime. For example, take a hot bath or read for thirty minutes before getting into bed.
- Try not to watch television or check your e-mail just before going to sleep because they can be stimulating and cause you trouble sleeping.
8. Stress Headaches
Stress headaches can be a common symptom of test anxiety. If you have a test coming up, you may begin to experience a headache as the test date approaches. This is your body's way of telling you that you are stressed about the upcoming exam.
You may also experience a stress headache during or after the exam. For example, if you are having difficulty understanding the questions or reading the material on the test, then this can lead to stress and contribute to a stress headache. In this case, your body is stressed because it perceives that there is danger in failing to understand the material on the exam.
If you find that you have stress headaches before tests, then it may be helpful to engage in relaxation activities such as meditation or deep breathing exercises before and during the test to help reduce your anxiety levels.
9. Muscle Cramps and Twitches
If your test is coming up and you are feeling muscle cramps and twitches in your body, then it's the symptom test anxiety. These muscles start getting tense during a test or sometimes when a student has to write an exam paper. The best way to get rid of these spasms is by engaging yourself in physical activity like doing stretches or exercises for about 30 minutes before going to bed every night for two weeks prior to your test/exam day. You can even start practicing yoga as it will help relax all of your muscles and reduce mental stress as well.
This symptom is caused by excessive mental stress, tension, and anxiety while preparing for a test. So if you feel any spasms in your muscles during exam or test day, take immediate action to eliminate them. It will help you get rid of stress and tension.
This can be compared to what athletes go through when they are about to compete in games. They start experiencing muscle cramps due to physical stress, tension, and anxiety; not getting enough rest before an important event because of late-night revision sessions could also cause muscle cramps as well.
So instead of taking anti-inflammatory medications that may have bad side effects on your body, use those home remedies listed above for two weeks prior to your test/exam day.
If you are feeling irritable while preparing for or during a test, it may be a sign that you are suffering from test anxiety. If you find yourself in this situation, it may help to take a break and do something completely different before returning to your studies.
You Can Do It!
Talk to someone close to you who understands your situation and who can help you ease your stress. Also, it is important to find support from friends and family. Sharing your worries can help you feel better.
When test anxiety becomes too much to bear, it is best to seek professional help. A counselor or psychologist can help you cope with the uncomfortable emotions that test anxiety brings along. They will also teach you how to relax during a test and how to be confident in yourself and your abilities.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq