Everyone knows the uncomfortable feeling of an important test: The hands are sweaty, the pulse is racing and the stomach goes crazy. What can one do about these and other symptoms of test anxiety?

Symptoms of test anxiety

Everyone probably knows the feeling: one is at the door, behind which one will immediately undergo an important test and the heart is racing; a queasy feeling spreads in the stomach and one is restless. These symptoms are far from being test anxiety! Only when the symptoms reach a certain level, one actually speaks of this psychological phenomenon.

The symptoms of a “true” test anxiety are very diverse. The extent to which the symptoms are pronounced depends largely on the psychosomatic response patterns of a person to examination stress. Test anxious may complain of sleep disorders and even have depressive moods. Moreover, scrutinizers have many fears of which very few are realistic.

Fear provides energy for excellence

Fear works to a certain extent to promote performance. This applies to exams as well as athletic achievements, etc. Fear causes stress in the organism: the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. As a result, the pupils dilate and the pulse is accelerated.

In addition, the digestive functions of the body are throttled, so that more energy is available for the upcoming “test”. In addition, the supply of oxygen to the brain is improved, ultimately increasing mental performance. In this way, energies are provided that enable excellence – whether in a lecture, a test or a competition.

When the review by another person causes panic

Nervousness before a test is firstly something completely normal and secondly, it works, as described above, performance-enhancing. Only when the negative thoughts before an exam situation take on such proportions that one avoids the exam situation, can one speak of a “correct” exam anxiety.

This does not mean that the person concerned is generally very anxious. Rather, the negative thoughts in the head refer to a very specific situation and indeed to a pending assessment by another person (by the name of someone else). It is necessary to provide a service to an examiner. Here you can do poorly, which can lead to negative consequences. Many sufferers feel helplessly exposed to the situation. It can come to panic attacks.

Affected persons estimate their influence as low

About 40 percent of all students in Europe suffer according to their own statements under test anxiety. As already mentioned, the panic before an exam depends heavily on the psycho-physiological arousal of a person. Cognitive assessments play a special role here. These thoughts have a big impact on the perceived threat of each situation.

People with test anxiety tend to overestimate the “danger”. At the same time they underestimate their own influence. Due to the simultaneous over- and under-estimation, the factor “anxiety” and thus also the fear increases. By more confidence in your own ability to act, the factor “Anxiety” can be reduced. More about this later in the article.

In some cases of test anxiety, this is due to experiences and arguments with the parental authorities. The situations “of yesteryear” are transferred to the exam or to the examiner. This leads to an irrational dramatization of the anticipated events.

These people are particularly affected

The following persons are increasingly panic-faced with an exam situation:

  • Persons who have excessive demands on their own performance
  • People with a tendency to negative self-criticism
  • People who have a high degree of self-attention
  • People whose motive is not characterized by hope for success but by fear of failure.
  • All these features are considered quite stable in science. Nevertheless, they can be influenced to some degree and partially suspended. You can find out how to do that later in this article.

A self-test


The following questions are designed to help students assess whether they are suffering from exam anxiety. Of course, this test can not replace the diagnosis by a physician or by a psychologist. But he can provide clues as to whether the negative thoughts in the head are actually panic-like fears. For this assessment it is important how many of the following statements one can agree with.

  • I often imagine myself spoiling and failing the exam.
  • I feel helplessly exposed to the examiners.
  • When I fail, everyone thinks I’m a failure.
  • A non-existence is like a doomsday.
  • I do not know how to proceed if I do not exist.
  • With exams I have had only bad experiences.
  • I always have bad luck with exams (the questions often relate to my learning gap)
  • I’ve already skipped an exam in fear.
  • From time to time I take a sedative before a test.
  • The material is too big to learn.
  • Everyone else has no learning problems – I’m too stupid.
  • I just can not or only poorly remember the subject matter and general things.
  • Tests lead me to sleep disorders.
  • I am afraid of being unable to solve many tasks.
  • With the learning I usually start only at the last minute.
  • My hands are about to get sweaty in an exam.
  • The examiner does not seem to like me anyway.
  • The failure is very embarrassing for my friends.
  • If I can not solve these tasks, I am embarrassed.
  • If I do not insist, my family will be very disappointed with me.
  • If I do not know what to do during the exam, I’ll break it off.
  • If you could agree more than five of these statements, test anxiety is definitely an issue for you. If you could agree more than ten statements, you should consider the help of a professional.

10 tips to take the pressure off of you
The following tips will help you to minimize the fear of examining.

  • Get ready for the test.
  • Face your fear and do not bother with it too much.
  • Imagine the successfully passed exam in advance. This promotes a positive mood.
  • Simulate and train the exam situation. Play the exam step by step (with friends, with the family).
  • Think positively and do not paint out all the negative scenarios in advance.
  • Others also panic about an exam situation. Exchange with fellow students, friends and family about the fears.
  • Be aware that outsiders do not necessarily tell you your nervousness. And certainly not the examiner of your nervousness on your skills. So do not be afraid of the fear.
  • Use the “anchor method”. A psychic anchor is a stimulus that can kill the “switch” with us. It can be both a song and a fragrance, a picture, etc.
  • Do not put yourself under pressure and realize that there are more important things in life than this test. The test does not decide on your entire life!
  • Regularly perform relaxation exercises such as yoga or autogenic training. These techniques reduce general anxiety and help you overcome your panic before an exam situation.
  • It would also be helpful if you prepare properly for the exam, more about that right now, you can find on our website.

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