What is Test Anxiety?

Stressful teenage student having many problems

Test Anxiety is a sub-type of Performance Anxiety

Test anxiety is a combination of physiological over-arousal, tension and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophizing, that occur before or during test situations.

Symptoms of Test Anxiety

Continuum anxietyTest anxiety is normal. We all experience a certain level of anxiety when we need to perform. Anxiety produces adrenaline which activates us to perform. It is when the anxiety becomes debilitating and you can no longer perform that is becomes a hindrance instead of a benefit. Below are some of the more severe symptoms of test anxiety which may require intervention.

Physical symptoms:

Headache, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint can all occur. …

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. Exaggerated worries and expectations of negative outcomes in unknown situations. “Blanking out”/ freezing

Test anxiety is just the tip of the iceberg

IcebergAn abnormal amount of test anxiety is merely a manifestation of a much larger issue. It is the tip of the ice berg and indicates that a bigger problem lies below. If you think about a warning light in your car flashing, say the oil light, this warning light indicates to you that you need to check the oil. You wouldn’t think that the problem lies in the flashing light and try to disable the light would you? No, you know that the light is directing you to the main problem in the car. An abnormal amount of test anxiety is the same as that flashing warning light. It indicates that something bigger needs to be attended to in that person’s world.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates the point:MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg

In order for a person to self-actualize (reach their full potential) they need to have the all the base block in place. These base blocks, starting from the base of the triangle, as they apply to overcoming test anxiety are:

Abnormal test anxiety occurs when these needs are  not in place. It is only when all these needs are met that a child can successfully overcome test anxiety. Perhaps think about where your child may be struggling on this triangle? Stay posted for my next blog on how to help your child overcome the various obstacles on this triangle of needs.