You failed yet another exam. You studied for several days and you were sure that you knew the answer to any question that could be thrown your way. There’s something about this class that gets the best of you, that makes you feel like success is not within your reach. Maybe it is because of all the rumors that you heard about the tests being difficult. Or maybe it’s because you know that without this class, you cannot graduate and therefore, failure is not an option. But somehow, during the exam your mind just went blank, like you never studied at all. As if the countless hours you hovered over your laptop and notes was just a waste of time. If you feel anything like this you may be suffering from performance debilitating test anxiety.
Test performance anxiety is when someone has the tendency to judge or rate a situation that they are being evaluated in as threatening. Types of situations that could amplify these symptoms could be in an actual exam, public speaking, or driving tests. Test performance anxiety can act as a perceived threat to one’s goals, aspirations, self-worth, or identity. Therefore, this disorder is more than regarding poor outcomes on a test, but also the feeling of failure in poor outcomes in everyday life events.
The three cognitive components associated with test anxiety are worried thoughts, interference, and lack of confidence. To further elaborate, worried thoughts refer to the overwhelming fear of the test itself and how the possible outcome can affect the student. The interference component refers to getting distracted or thinking of irrelevant thoughts, whether it occurs while preparing for the exam or during the exam itself. Examples of irrelevant thoughts include thinking about what to have for dinner, or what happened in the latest episode of one’s favorite television show, rather than focusing on the important task at hand. Lastly, there’s the lack of confidence that is associated with test performance anxiety. It is said that when you say or do things in a confident manner, one can possibly have someone believe anything. The same applies to taking an exam. If you are confident in the effectiveness of your studying while taking the exam, the outcome can be totally different. When going into an exam with the perception that you have already failed, you might do just that because of the lack of confidence in yourself.
Worrying about the future is a common thing for a human being to do. Someone who suffers from test performance anxiety may have this constant worry that can hinder their everyday life. It is as if they are putting on a show and one mistake can ruin the whole production. That is what it feels like to those who suffer from this intense form of anxiety. Every decision in life that makes them feel like they are being evaluated. They feel judged for every decision they make and ruminate how it can negatively impact their life in the future.
Test performance anxiety can go beyond the classroom, as mentioned before. It is healthy and normal to be nervous about a situation you are being evaluated in, whether it be a driving test or public speaking. It shows that you care about the situation and how it will impact you later on. However, it becomes debilitating when the performance anxiety takes an attack on your confidence and brings about a worry that hinders you from performing well from the start. Let us practice confidence in all that we do. Let the implication of confidence change our daily lives. Even small things, such as the way we walk, can add the right push to overall self-confidence. When you go into an exam thinking that the worst is inevitable, you lose sight of the situation and set yourself up for failure. Those who suffer from test performance anxiety can overcome the obstacles given to them, one stride at a time.
Putwain, D. W., & Symes, W. (2018). Does increased effort compensate for performance debilitating test anxiety? School Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 482–491. https://doi-org.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/10.1037/spq0000236
Raufelder, D., & Ringeisen, T. (2016). Self-perceived competence and test anxiety: The role of academic self-concept and self-efficacy. Journal of Individual Differences, 37(3), 159–167. https://doi-org.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/10.1027/1614-0001/a000202
Single frustrated student girl trying to understand notes sitting in a bar. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/single-frustrated-student-girl-trying-understand-708181519?irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Pixabay+GmbH&utm_source=44814&utm_term=https://pixabay.com/images/search/test%20anxiety/.