By Lilly Nuck
Biting your nails continuously. Tapping your foot to the beat of an aged analog clock. Your stomach twisting and turning inside you. These are all things that you could have experienced if you have ever gotten anxious before a quiz, test, or a final exam. No matter how long or hard you studied the night before, once that piece of paper is firmly set in front of you or the test is opened up on Google Classroom, you lose all faith. The inanimate object taunts you and makes you believe that you are severely underprepared. While test anxiety comes at an assortment of levels, miniscule or severe, there are many little steps you can take to lower your stress and create healthier test-taking habits.
Due to the sudden switch to online learning, anxieties of all kinds began to increase because of students having to suddenly learn in a different way and environment. Not being able to simply ask your teacher a question after class or stay after school for a test study session has definitely forced students to become more independent in their studies.
While the average person may think test anxiety is just experiencing nerves before a test, it can be much more critical than that. In the article “Test Anxiety Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments,” Kendra Cherry discusses the true severity of anxiety. Cherry defines test anxiety as “a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations.” She later goes on to explain that test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety. Performance anxiety occurs in situations in which individuals have a large amount of pressure put on them to succeed at a task, but the extensive level of pressure makes them unable to perform at their very best. According to Yerkes Dodson Law, the psychological relationship between pressure and performance results in increased arousal levels, in this case nerves, and can actually result in better execution on a test; however, this is true only up to a certain level. Excessive stress levels can make it extremely difficult to concentrate and could lead to being unable to recall information that you clearly studied prior to the test.
The article also highlights that there are both biological and mental causes of test anxiety. Biological causes stem from the idea that the body releases a hormone known as adrenaline that is released during stressful situations. This release helps prepare the body for the “fight-or-flight” response, a reaction that either allows you to stay and deal with the stress or “run” away from the situation completely. Now some pure mental causes of test anxiety can simply be going into a test with a negative mindset already believing you are going to fail dramatically.
Furthermore, the website that provided this article, Verywell Mind, offers many tips about how to overcome this overbearing psychological condition. It provides the following test-preparation strategies: Do not try to be a perfectionist, ban negative thoughts, get a proper amount of sleep, and take deep breaths. If none of these seem to help and stress is still at a horrific level, you can consult a school counselor or psychologist for help.
Now, while you may feel like you are alone in feeling test anxiety, it happens to be a very common issue that occurs among students, primarily at the high school and college level. After conducting a recent poll, a variety of students from OCHS expressed how they have experienced test anxiety and described things that they do or think in order to relax. For instance, Sophie Schaubel, a junior at OCHS, explained how she prepares for tests. “I test my friends and have them test me, too, in order to prepare and feel less stressed,” stated Schaubel. The idea of studying with your fellow peers is really important and provides an extra support system as you prepare for a test.
Sonia Oliden, a senior at OCHS, also had some insight into how to prepare for a test. She described how she sets mini goals for herself throughout the unit of the subject to keep herself more organized and, therefore, is mentally prepared when the test comes around. Studying a little bit every single day leading up to a test is definitely the best route to go. Built up stress before a test can occur due to feeling underprepared, resulting in cramming the night before. Spacing out the amount of content you are trying to learn in small increments can help lead you to great success.
Haley Mallonee, another sophomore at the high school, explained how deep breathing is a game changer before taking a test. This only takes two minutes out of your time and can play a dramatic role in how you perform on the test.
Although test anxiety is not an easy thing to get over, it is a condition that can be managed. At the end of the day, it is key to remember that a test grade does not define you as a person and your self worth. You can be very well-prepared for an exam, do a relaxation exercise before taking it, and still end up with a score you are not pleased with. Use the tips mentioned above not to guarantee yourself a better test score but moreso to better your overall mental health.