Imagine studying for hours on end, fully preparing for an exam, and feeling confident about knowing all the required information only to sit down to take the exam and forgetting everything that you know. The moment the teacher begins distributing the exam, your heart starts racing, your mind draws a blank, and out of nowhere, intense fear paralyzes you. If you have experienced this before, you may have test anxiety.
Test anxiety is a serious problem and, for those who have succumbed to it, an incredibly frustrating experience. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 16-20% of students today experience test anxiety. That’s quite a high prevalence, but hardly surprising when you consider the stress that millennials are under.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the symptoms of test anxiety in children and teens include the following:
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint can all occur. Test anxiety can lead to a panic attack, which is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.
- Emotional symptoms: Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.
- Behavioral/Cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.
If these symptoms seem familiar to you, don’t despair. Test anxiety is very treatable, so long as you understand the cause and take some time to work with various strategies to manage its effects.