The impacts of Test Anxiety on Students and how to handle it


By LAURA HUMBLE – STAFF WRITER

When you sit down to take a test, do you experience nausea, sweating, trouble breathing, difficulty concentrating, or all of the above? If so, then you may suffer from text anxiety.

Test anxiety is a noted psychological condition in which an individual feels distressed before, during, or after taking a test, and often impacts how an individual performs on the test.

The causes of test anxiety are varied, including the individual’s fear of failure, a history of poor test performance and/or a lack of preparation that leaves the individual feeling overwhelmed.

Chances are either you or someone you know suffers from test anxiety. This condition is all too common on college campuses, especially colleges with high-stress environments such as Centre College.

Although we don’t have any survey data to show how prevalent test anxiety is on our campus, we certainly have it, and believe it is more prevalent in first-year students who are still learning to adjust to the academic rigors of college life,” Director of Counseling Services at Parsons Health Center Kathy Miles said.

There are good strategies to address test anxiety, and students can learn those and improve.”

It is not unusual for students to go to Parsons for counseling on their test anxiety.

Students with test anxiety do come in to see a counselor in Counseling Services. We see a significant number each year who address this issue—sometimes they only come in for this issue, and sometimes they come in for other issues, such as generalized anxiety,” Miles said. “Our two counselors in Counseling Services in Parsons are experienced in working with students with test and performance anxiety.”

Sophomore Andrea Marchyn is one of the many sufferers of test anxiety on Centre’s campus.

When I have test anxiety, I get jittery and can’t focus. It will last all morning and [I] find myself having difficulty sleeping the night before. I suffer from anxiety when I take tests dealing with math because there is usually only one right answer and that can be nerve-wracking,” Marchyn said.

How does the stress of tests at Centre College negatively affect its students?

My test anxiety has definitely increased since coming to Centre. I never had test anxiety before, not even when taking an important test like the ACT,” Marchyn said.

I definitely think test anxiety is a problem on Centre’s campus. We are all under a lot of stress and held to a higher academic standard.”

When asked how to combat test anxiety, Miles gave several examples of what students can do.

Prepare and study well for the test; get adequate sleep the night before; eat breakfast that morning; examine any negative [or] self-defeating thinking you have about your performance, such as catastrophizing, and change it to validating, encouraging and realistic thinking; check out your breathing as you go into a test—do abdominal breathing to lower anxiety; practice meditation and mindfulness regularly…; [and] review the entire test first,” Miles said.

I try to prepare and make sure I have time to eat breakfast/lunch in a relaxed state before my test. I put away my notes five minutes before class to avoid the anxiety of trying to cram that last bit of knowledge in,” Marchyn said.

While students are the ones who suffer from test anxiety, professors see it in their classrooms every year.

My first year of teaching, I had a student who sat in the front of the room, particpated actively in class, knew the material, and she completely bombed the test,” Professor of Chemistry Dr. Jennifer Muzyka said.

While test anxiety can create a sense of isolation among students, professors are aware of the issue and have helped students in the past who deal with it.

My first piece of advice was I told her to quit studying up to the last minute before the test. I told her to relax for an hour and watch The Price is Right. Sure enough, on the next test she went from a ‘D’ to a ‘B,’” Dr. Muzyka said.

According to Dr. Muzyka, test anxiety is a common problem among her students, especially in classes like Organic Chemsitry.

Even people that don’t have test anxiety in other classes usually have it in my class,” Dr. Muzyka said.

This class [Organic] is very important to their major, and I know that test anxiety can be crippling, even in a regular class.”

Like Miles, Dr. Muzyka suggests the basics: a good night’s sleep and time for the brain to unwind.

While faculty as a whole have not addressed the issue, it is something that the chemistry department has discussed.

I’ve talked a lot with other chemists about the issue. It’s so common among already stressed-out, pre-medical students here at Centre College,” Dr. Muzyka said.

If you feel that you may suffer from test anxiety, practice any of the methods mentioned above, or visit a Parsons Counselor.


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