Test Anxiety

How much anxiety is OK?

Test anxiety is normal and some anxiety can be helpful, prompting you to be better prepared for the demands of your course.  It simply varies from person to person.  Here are some helpful hints to help you decide if your level of test anxiety is OK:

·    At too low level of arousal, you may put little or no effort into preparing for exams.

·       At medium levels of arousal, you can work and prepare well, and give you best performance.

·       Too much arousal can disrupt and harm performance.  This level of arousal is unpleasant and where test anxiety can become a problem.

How do you know if test anxiety is becoming a problem?

The following brief screening is an adaptation of the Achievement Anxiety Test (Alpert & Haber, 1960).  Indicate the number for each item that comes closest to describing you.

1.  Nervousness while taking an exam or test hinders me from doing well.  

2.  In a course where I have been doing poorly, my fear of a bad grade cuts down my efficiency.  

3.  When I am poorly prepared for an exam or test, I get upset, and do less well than even my restricted knowledge should allow.   

4. The more important the examination, the less well I seem to do.   

5. During exams or tests, I block on questions to which I know the answers, even though I remember them as soon as the exam is over.   

6. I find that my mind goes blank at the beginning of an exam, and it takes me a few minutes before I can function.   

7. I am so tired from worrying about an exam, that I find I almost don't care how well I do by the time I start the test.   

8. Time pressure on an exam causes me to do worse than the rest of the group under similar conditions.   

9. I find myself reading exam questions without understanding them, and I must go back over them so that they will make sense.   

10. When I don't do well on a difficult item at the beginning of an exam, it tends to upset me so that I block on very easy questions later on.   

After completing this brief screening, sum the numbers entered for each of the ten items.  If your total score is higher than 37, your current level of test anxiety may be preventing you from functioning successfully and you may consider seeking assistance from a qualified professional.  However, you can begin to reduce your test anxiety by following the tips listed below.

Tips for Reducing Exam Anxiety

Before the Exam

·       Don't leave all of your studying until the last minute.  Learn and review as you go.

·       Know the material.  Test yourself often on course material.  Don't just read and recognize.

·       Find out how you will be tested and prepare by answering that kind of question:  solve problems, explain/compare theories, apply theories to situations, etc.  Practice without notes or your textbook and with a time limit, just like on the exam.

·       Set realistic and achievable goals.  Don't be a perfectionist who tries to learn everything, and don't tell yourself that you have to "ace" every exam.

·       Eat and sleep well before an exam.

·       Visualize success.  Be very specific.  Imagine yourself arriving for the exam feeling confident and relaxed.  In your mind, watch yourself answering the questions successfully, turning in your exam with confidence, and receiving a high grade.

During the Exam

·       Think positive thoughts at the beginning and throughout the exam.  Tell yourself that you are prepared, you can do it, and you deserve to succeed. 

·     View the exam as an opportunity to show what you know.

·       Remember that your future does not depend on the specific outcome of a specific exam.

·       Take time to read all of the instructions carefully.  If there is a choice, select those questions which you would like to answer first.  It is best to start with questions that you know the best.  This will put you in a confident state of mind and reduce your anxiety.

·       Plan to divide your time evenly among the various sections of the exam.  While you may not stay strictly with this limit, the guideline will give you a sense of progress and feedback about how you are doing.  It will also help you keep track of the time so that you have the opportunity to answer all of the questions.

·       You may find it helpful to set mini-breaks at specified points during the exam during which you close your eyes and do deep breathing exercises.  Even thirty seconds of relaxation can help reduce your stress level.

·       When we become anxious we begin to have negative thoughts ("I can't answer anything," "I am going to fail").  Deal firmly with negative thoughts:

·       Say to yourself, "STOP THAT."  This can be done immediately once you become aware of a negative thought and before it impairs performance.

·       Try to replace your negative thoughts with positive, encouraging thoughts such as "Relax and concentrate, everything will be okay."

Sometimes test anxiety is related to a lack of confidence or low self-esteem.  It can also be the result of pressure from family and teachers, or a more general fear of failure.  If you are a student at Wright State University and would like to talk to someone about your anxiety, please contact the Counseling and Wellness Services at 775-3407.

These materials were compiled and prepared by Melanie Michaud

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