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What Is Test Anxiety?

A Brief Overview of Test Anxiety

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Test Anxiety

Test anxiety can make it difficult to do your best on exams.

Julia Nichols / iStockPhoto

You paid attention in class, took detailed notes, read every chapter and even attended extra study sessions after class, so you should do great on that big exam, right? When the test is presented, however, you find yourself so nervous that you blank out the answers to even the easiest questions. If this experience sounds familiar, then you might be suffering from what is known as test anxiety.

What Is Text Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations. While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.

A little bit of nervousness can actually be helpful, making you feel mentally alert and ready to tackle the challenges presented in an exam. Excessive fear, on the other hand, can make it difficult to concentrate and you might struggle to recall things that you have studied.

Understanding Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety. In situations where the pressure is on and a good performance counts, people can become so anxious that they are actually unable to do their best.

Other examples of performance anxiety:

  • A high school basketball player becomes very anxious before a big game.
  • A violin student becomes extremely nervous before a recital.

While people have the skills and knowledge to do very well in these situations, their excessive anxiety impairs their performance.

The severity of test anxiety can vary considerably from one person to another. Some people might feel like they have "butterflies" in their stomach and while others might find it difficult to concentrate on the exam. Others might experience a racing heartbeat and a sense of shakiness. In the most severe cases, people can feel nauseous and short of breath or might even experience a full-blown panic attack.

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