Whenever we feel threatened or being under pressure or may be facing a stressful situation, our body senses an alarming feel that triggers anxiety. The pressure of studies and the expected results could trigger anxiety in students called as test anxiety. In order to control that test anxiety, let’s see how to identify it.

Identifying Test Anxiety in Children

Test anxiety signs and symptoms can be identified in two ways. Firstly, test anxiety can occur before, during and after the examination. Secondly, test anxiety can be understood by examining the changes that take place at the physical, emotional and behavior levels.

Signs

 Test anxiety before, during and after the examination

Anxiety before the examination can take the form of worrying about days in advance, irritability, headaches and changes in sleep and appetite. Anxiety during the examination is experienced as the mind going blank, sweating, confusion or panic. The anxiety that comes after the examination includes feelings of guilt, anger, finding careless mistakes and depression.

Symptoms

Test anxiety at the physical, emotional and behavioral levels

Each person will experience a different collection of signs and symptoms of test anxiety with differing degrees of intensity.  However, they fall into a few categories.

Physical symptoms

When a person suffers test anxiety, headache, loss of sleep, appetite, sometimes hair fall, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, and extreme body temperature changes, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, feeling faint and/or dry mouth, muscle tension, cramps can all occur. A student can experience some or all of them. Test anxiety can also lead to a panic attack, which is the sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.

Emotional symptoms

Excessive feelings of anger, fear, feelings of helplessness, depression, low self-esteem, uncontrollable crying or laughing, and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.

Behavioral /Cognitive symptoms

Fidgeting, pacing, substance abuse, avoidance, thinking negatively, racing thoughts, ‘going blank’, trouble remembering information that was understood and thoroughly studied, trouble concentrating and analyzing problems, difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of panic, comparing with others, difficulty in organizing thoughts are common symptoms of test anxiety.

Controlling Test Anxiety in Children

Test Anxiety should be controlled. Anxiety creates a kind of noise in the brain that blocks our ability to retrieve what’s stored in memory and also greatly impairs our ability to comprehend and reason.

There are many ways to reduce the test anxiety in Children. The below list of things will give an idea of them.

The general ways to reduce test anxiety include the following:

  • Balancing Emotions: Balancing the emotions while getting anxious is an important thing to do. Remembering something pleasant can calm you down.
  • Refining Skills: Practicing psychological skills and techniques would make your skills refined.
  • Getting Prepared: Studying in small increments every day and revising perfectly well, makes you prepared well for the exam.
  • Maintaining Positive Attitude: Be positive and never compare your self-worth with the test results or the previous result experiences.
  • Staying focused: While writing an exam, stay focused on what you need to write. Don’t get anxious thinking what others around are so actively writing about.

The behavioural ways to reduce test anxiety include the following:

  • Having regular meals: Don’t be hungry, because hunger will not allow the nutrients to reach your mind. This makes you tough to focus on anything.
  • Sleeping well: Sleep deprivation is a big cause of anxiety. It also lessens the focus making you inactive.
  • Stretch muscles: Anxiety causes muscles to tense up. During your breaks, make sure you stretch any muscles that feel tight.
  • Meditate: Meditation is designed to relax your mind and body. It helps a lot in the reduction of your anxiety.
  • Avoiding unnecessary interactions: Don’t lend an ear to the talks that could increase your anxiety levels.
  • Exercising: Enjoy doing aerobic exercises that improve your heart rate and keep you healthy and active.

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The emotional ways to reduce test anxiety include the following:

  • Focus on positive aspects: Generate a list of your positive qualities and remind yourself of them by posting them in your room or repeating them to yourself from time to time. Repeat them to yourself when you feel anxious.
  • Think about your cognitive state: Observe yourself if you are unable to focus or just procrastinating your work. These are also the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Check your thought patterns: Negative thinking traps are the causes of anxiety. Having thoughts like you are going to fail will make you anxious.
  • Analyze negative thoughts: Try to bring out a reason why that negative thought occurs and give it a positive situation to prove it wrong. Then such negative thoughts will get ward off.
  • Put negative thoughts in perspective: Just check if those thoughts fit into reality. Most of them won’t do.
  • Replace illogical thoughts with logical ones: Give yourself good reasons why you could fail the exam when you have prepared well.
  • Identify your thoughts: Identify the reason behind the thoughts that suddenly make you anxious.
  • Use positive self-statements: Use positive statements about yourself that cuts off the negative thinking.
  • Coping statements: Keep reminding yourself that you can cope with situations better, by coming up with such statements.
  • Avoid Criticism: Regularly practice being ‘kind’ to yourself (say positive things about yourself), rather than being overly self-critical.

Parents’ role in managing test anxiety

Control your own anxiety

Children take cues from parents. Witnessing a parent in a state of anxiety can be more than just temporarily unsettling for children. Children look to their parents for information about how to take ambiguous situations. If a parent seems constantly anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of situations are unsafe. And there is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves, a possible combination of genetic risk factors and learned behaviors.

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Do not feel guilty

It can be painful to think that, despite your best intentions, you may find yourself transmitting your own stress to your child. But if you are dealing with anxiety and start to notice your child exhibiting anxious behaviors, the first important thing is not to get bogged down by guilt.

Do not pass on your anxiety

The transmission of anxiety from parent to child is not unavoidable. Manage your own stress as effectively as possible, and help your children manage theirs. Find out if your child is prone to anxiety and once you know it, learn the strategies to manage it sooner.

Maintain a calm neutral behavior

Try to maintain a calm, neutral behavior in front of your child, even as you are working on managing your anxiety. Be aware of your facial expressions, the words you choose, and the intensity of the emotion you express, because children are reading you. They’re little and they pick up on everything.

Test Preparation                                 

Performance on examinations is determined to a great extent by the nature of one’s preparation. It is always to be kept in mind that the quality of test preparation is more important than the quantity of preparation.

Factors which influence test preparation

Motivation

Motivation is an inner state of our mind that activates and directs behavior. Motivation is the very heart of the learning process. Individuals set goals for themselves and direct their behavior accordingly. Motivation determines the specific goals toward which learners struggle. Motivation increases the amount of effort and energy that students expend in activities directly related to their needs and goals. It determines whether they pursue a task enthusiastically and passionately or lethargically and unwillingly.

Motivation increases initiation of and determination in activities.  Students are more likely to begin a task they actually want to do and to continue working at it until they’ve completed it, even if they are occasionally interrupted or frustrated in the process. Motivation increases students’ time on task, an important factor affecting their learning and achievement. Motivation affects cognitive processes that learners pay attention to and how effectively they process it.

Motivation determines which consequences are reinforcing and often enhances performance.  Students who are most motivated to learn and excel in classroom activities tend to be the highest achievers. All forms of motivation may not exactly have the same effects on human learning and performance, because motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation

Students who are intrinsically motivated engage in an activity because it gives them pleasure, helps them develop a skill they think is important. Some students with high levels of intrinsic motivation become so focused and engaged in an activity that they lose track of time and completely ignore other tasks. Intrinsically motivated students challenge assigned tasks enthusiastically. They are eager to learn the classroom material and are more likely to process information in effective ways by engaging in meaningful learning. Intrinsic motivation makes them achieve higher levels. Intrinsic motivation will sustain students over the long run. It encourages them to make sense of what they are studying and how to apply them and will also increase the likelihood that they will continue to read their academic subject matter.

Extrinsic motivation

Students who are extrinsically motivated may want the good grades, or recognition that particular activities bring.  They may have to be tempted or pushed, may process information quickly, and are often interested in performing only easy tasks and meeting minimal classroom requirements. Students are simultaneously motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

 

So, when the students learn to overcome and reduce their test anxiety, they can have a good control on their anxiety. The factors that motivate them to study and the motivational support from Parents can make them excel in their academics. Having a good co-ordination between family members also helps them. In order to have an expert help regarding any kind of psychological support, either online or offline, book an appointment, today!!

 


Prof. Madhu Kosuri

I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.

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