Test Anxiety (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth (2023)

You've done all of your homework and studied hard, and you think you have a grip on the material. But then the day of the test comes. Suddenly, you blank out, freeze up, zone out, or feel so nervous that you can't get it together to respond to those questions you knew the answers to just last night.

If this sounds like you, you may have a case of test anxiety — that nervous feeling that people sometimes get when they're about to take a test.

It's normal to feel a little nervous and stressed before a test. Just about everyone does. And a little nervous anticipation can actually help you do better on a test.

But for some people, test anxiety is more intense. The nervousness they feel before a test can be so strong that it interferes with their concentration or performance.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety — a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure's on to do well. For example, a person might have performance anxiety just before trying out for the school play, singing a solo on stage, getting into position at the pitcher's mound, stepping onto the platform in a diving meet, or going into an important interview.

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Like other situations in which a person might feel performance anxiety, test anxiety can bring on "butterflies," a stomachache, or a headache. Some people might feel shaky or sweaty, or feel their heart beating quickly as they wait for the test to be given out. A student with really strong test anxiety may even feel like he or she might pass out or throw up.

Test anxiety is not the same as doing poorly on a certain test because your mind is on something else. Most people know that having other things on their minds — such as a breakup or the death of someone close — can interfere with their concentration and prevent them from doing their best on a test.

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What Causes It?

All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful. Like other anxiety reactions, test anxiety affects the body and the mind.

When you're under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger (you may hear this referred to as the "fight or flight" reaction). That's what causes the physical symptoms, such as sweating, a pounding heart, and rapid breathing. These sensations might be mild or intense.

Focusing on the bad things that could happen also fuels test anxiety. For example, someone worrying about doing poorly might have thoughts like, "What if I forget everything I know?" or "What if the test is too hard?" Too many thoughts like these leave no mental space for thinking about the test questions. People with test anxiety can also feel stressed out by their physical reaction: "What if I throw up?" or "Oh no, my hands are shaking."

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Just like other types of anxiety, test anxiety can create a bad cycle: The more a person focuses on the negative things that could happen, the stronger the feeling of anxiety becomes. This makes the person feel worse and, with a head is full of distracting thoughts and fears, can increase the chances that he or she will do poorly on the test.

Who's Likely to Have Test Anxiety?

People who worry a lot or who are perfectionists are more likely to have trouble with test anxiety. People with these traits sometimes find it hard to accept mistakes they might make or to get anything less than a perfect score. In this way, even without meaning to, they might really pressure themselves. Test anxiety is bound to thrive in a situation like this.

Students who aren't prepared for tests but who care about doing well are also likely to have test anxiety. If you know you're not prepared, it's a no-brainer to realize that you'll be worried about doing poorly. People can feel unprepared for tests for several reasons: They may not have studied enough, they may find the material difficult, or perhaps they feel tired because didn't get enough sleep the night before.

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What Can You Do?

Test anxiety can be a real problem if you'reso stressed out over a test that you can't get past the nervousness to focus on the test questions and do your best work. Feeling ready to meet the challenge, though, can keep test anxiety at a manageable level.

Use a little stress to your advantage. Stress is your body's warning mechanism — it's a signal that helps you prepare for something important that's about to happen. So use it to your advantage. Instead of reacting to the stress by dreading, complaining, or fretting about the test with friends, take an active approach. Let stress remind you to study well in advance of a test. Chances are, you'll keep your stress from spinning out of control. After all, nobody ever feels stressed out by thoughts that they might do well on a test.

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Ask for help. Although a little test anxiety can be a good thing, an overdose of it is another story. If sitting for a test gets you so stressed out that your mind goes blank and causes you to miss answers that you know, then your level of test anxiety probably needs some attention. Your teacher, a school guidance counselor, or a tutor can be good people to talk to test anxiety gets to be too much to handle

Be prepared. Some students think that going to class is all it should take to learn and do well on tests. But there's much more to learning than just hoping to soak up everything in class. That's why good study habitsand skills are so important — and why no amount of cramming or studying the night before a test can take the place of the deeper level of learning that happens over time with good study skills.

Many students find that their test anxiety eases when they start to study better or more regularly. It makes sense — the more you know the material, the more confident you'll feel. Having confidence going into a testmeans you expect to do well. When you expect to do well, you'll be able to relax into a test after the normal first-moment jitters pass.

Watch what you're thinking. If expecting to do well on a test can help you relax, what about if you expect youwon't do well? Watch out for any negative messages you might be sending yourself about the test. They can contribute to your anxiety.

If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts ("I'm never any good at taking tests" or "It's going to be terrible if I do badly on this test"), replace them with positive messages. Not unrealistic positive messages, of course, but ones that are practical and true, such as "I've studied hard and I know the material, so I'm ready to do the best I can."

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Accept mistakes. Another thing you can do is to learn to keep mistakes in perspective — especially if you're a perfectionist or you tend to be hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and you may have even heard teachers or coaches refer to mistakes as "learning opportunities." Learning to tolerate small failures and mistakes — like that one problem you got wrong in the math pop quiz — is a valuable skill.

Take care of yourself. It can help to learn ways to calm yourself down and relax when you're tense or anxious. For some people, this might mean learning a simple breathing exercise. Practicing breathing exercises regularly (when you're not stressed out) helps your body see these exercises as a signal to relax.

And, of course, taking care of your health — such as gettingenough sleep, exercise, and healthy eats before a test — can help keep your mind working at its best.

Everything takes time and practice, and learning to beat test anxiety is no different. Although it won't go away overnight, facing and dealing with test anxiety will help you learn stress management, which can prove to be a valuable skill in many situations besides taking tests.

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How do you pass an anxiety test? ›

To help you stay calm and confident right before and during the test, perform relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome. Don't forget to eat and drink. Your brain needs fuel to function.

What is test anxiety questionnaire? ›

Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI) was developed by Spielberger and its Associates (1980). The TAI, a standardized measurement scale for test anxiety, consists of 20 items that separate worry and emotionality and, at the same time, yields total score of examination anxiety.

What are the four components of test anxiety? ›

Parts of the scale on test anxiety are based on Sarason's Reactions-to-Tests Questionnaire (Sarason, 1984). Each scale consists of four subscales relating to affective, cognitive, motivational, and physiological emotion components.

How do you get an A on a test? ›

10 Steps To Ace Your Next Test
  1. Get informed. Don't walk into your test unprepared for what you will face. ...
  2. Think like your teacher. ...
  3. Make your own study aids. ...
  4. Practice for the inevitable. ...
  5. Study every day. ...
  6. Cut out the distractions. ...
  7. Divide big concepts from smaller details. ...
  8. Don't neglect the “easy” stuff.

What is the 5 Rule for anxiety? ›

Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself: 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings. 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you.

What are 3 causes of test anxiety? ›

What Causes Your Test Anxiety?
  • Being afraid that you won't live up to the expectations of important people in your life; worrying that you will lose the affection of people you care about if you don't succeed.
  • Believing grades are an estimation of your personal worth.
  • Placing too much emphasis on a single test.

Is test anxiety a part of ADHD? ›

As parents of students with ADHD, many of you understand personally the relationship between ADHD and academic test anxiety. Test anxiety affects 61% of students at some point during their academic careers. However, students with ADHD are much more likely than their peers to experience it consistently.

What are the 2 types of test anxiety? ›


One type of test anxiety is somatic, which is what you are feeling. 2. The second type of test anxiety is cognitive, which is what you are thinking.

What is the biggest cause of test anxiety? ›

Poor study habits, poor past test performance, and an underlying anxiety problem can all contribute to test anxiety. Fear of failure: If you connect your sense of self-worth to your test scores, the pressure you put on yourself can cause severe test anxiety.

What are six physical symptoms of test anxiety? ›

Symptoms of test anxiety

Physical symptoms: Headache, nausea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, and feeling faint.

What is a common symptom of test anxiety? ›

Many people with test anxiety report blanking out on answers to the test even though they thoroughly studied the information and were sure that they knew the answers to the questions. Negative self-talk, trouble concentrating on the test and racing thoughts are also common cognitive symptoms of test anxiety.

Do you pass with a C? ›

In any major or minor course, learners must receive at least a C-minus. Too many D grades also raise red flags for many colleges.

What percentage gives you an A? ›

Letter GradePercentage RangeMid-Range
A+90% to 100%95%
A80% to 89%85%
B+75% to 79%77.5%
B70% to 74%72.5%
6 more rows

Is a 100% an A? ›

Traditionally, the grades are A+, A, A−, B+, B, B−, C+, C, C−, D+, D, D− and F, with A+ being the highest and F being lowest. In some cases, grades can also be numerical.
Grade conversion.
Letter GradePercentageGPA
9 more rows

What food helps calm anxiety? ›

Foods naturally rich in magnesium may, therefore, help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.

What is the 3 3 3 rule anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

What foods help with anxiety? ›

Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks. Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.

What are 2 physical symptoms of test anxiety? ›

Physical symptoms may include:
  • excessive sweating.
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • stomach pain.
  • rapid heartbeat.
  • shortness of breath.
  • headaches.
  • feeling lightheaded or faint.

Is test anxiety a mental health issue? ›

Thus, test anxiety resulting from a fear of being negatively judged by others is properly diagnosed as Social Phobia, either gener- alized or not, and seems to meet both the Section 504 and the ADA criterion for a mental impairment.

How can I help my child with test anxiety? ›

There are a few steps you can take to help your child tackle this problem before it becomes overwhelming.
  1. 1 Ask questions to clarify. ...
  2. 2 Teach test-taking basics. ...
  3. 3 Talk to the teacher. ...
  4. 4 Encourage positive self-talk. ...
  5. 5 Teach relaxation strategies. ...
  6. 6 Bolster confidence.
Nov 16, 2017

What comes first anxiety or ADHD? ›

The guidelines recommend treating the ADHD first, with a stimulant, and addressing the remaining anxiety with behavioral therapies and medication. There are no clear or published guidelines on how to treat coexisting ADHD plus anxiety disorders in children.

Will ADHD medication help with anxiety? ›

Certain attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications can help treat a person's co-occurring anxiety, while others may worsen it. ADHD and anxiety disorders are different conditions with distinct symptoms and presentations. The two conditions may exist together.

Can ADHD be mistaken for anxiety? ›

ADHD symptoms do often resemble and overlap with those of other conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, leading to misdiagnosis but also incomplete diagnosis when unrecognized comorbidities exist.

What is the best assessment tool for anxiety? ›

  • Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety. ...
  • Beck's Depression Inventory. ...
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder questionnaire (GAD-7) ...
  • Personal Health Questionnaire PHQ-9. ...
  • Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety. ...
  • Beck's Depression Inventory. ...
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder questionnaire (GAD-7) ...
  • Personal Health Questionnaire PHQ-9.

What happens in the brain during test anxiety? ›

Epinephrine increases heart rate while cortisol puts the brakes on the immune system to prevent inflammation of potential wounds. Intensifies emotions and prioritizes the encoding of negative affect into the brain. The hippocampus, which is responsible for recording new, accurate memories is shut down.

What 3 things can test anxiety affect? ›

In addition to academic impacts, text anxiety can affect a student's mental health, including lowered self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.

What is the lowest passing grade? ›

What is a passing grade? Many college grading systems consider a D, or 65 percent, to be the lowest passing grade. Note that different schools, programs, or classes may have different cutoff points for what they consider a passing grade.

What is the lowest passing grade in high school? ›

High School Grading System
  • 90-100. A. Excellent.
  • 80-89. B. Good.
  • 70-79. C. Average.
  • 65-69. D. Passing.
  • Below 65. F. Failing.

Is D considered failing? ›

A letter grade of a D is technically considered passing because it not a failure. A D is any percentage between 60-69%, whereas a failure occurs below 60%. Even though a D is a passing grade, it's barely passing.

Is a 96.5 an A+? ›

What are letter grades and how do they convert to percentages? Common examples of grade conversion are: A+ (97–100), A (93–96), A- (90–92), B+ (87–89), B (83–86), B- (80–82), C+ (77–79), C (73–76), C- (70–72), D+ (67–69), D (65–66), D- (below 65).

Is C a failing grade? ›

A grade of C or better is required to earn a Passed; a C- or below will earn a Not Passed grade. A grade of C- may satisfy many requirements (e.g., General Education, elective) but a Not Passed grade will not earn any credit or satisfy requirements.

Is 60% an A or B? ›

A 1st = A (70%+) A 2:1 = B (60%-70%) A 2:2 = C (50%-60%) A 3rd = D (45%-50%)

Is 64% an A? ›

*Please note that Baylor does use the (-) in our grading scale.
UK GradeUS Grade*
7 more rows

Is a C passing in college? ›

A grade of "C" (2.0) or better is required to satisfy the upper division writing requirement. [A grade of "C minus" (1.7) or lower is not a passing grade.]

What's the highest GPA? ›

The unweighted scale is most common, and the highest possible GPA on this scale is a 4.0. The unweighted scale doesn't take the difficulty of a student's classes into account. Weighted scales are also used at many high schools. Typically, they go up to a 5.0.

Can test anxiety make you fail? ›

Test anxiety can lead to poor performance on tests. Here's how to recognize the symptoms and find ways to manage the anxiety.

What is the score for anxiety? ›

The following guidelines are recommended for the interpretation of scores: 0–7 for normal or no anxiety, 8–10 for mild anxiety, 11–14 for moderate anxiety, and 12–21 for severe anxiety.

How should I sleep for anxiety exam? ›

Sleep tips for exam success
  1. Make time for sleep. ...
  2. Watch what you eat and when. ...
  3. Limit caffeinated drinks. ...
  4. Make your bedroom a place of rest. ...
  5. Don't use your smartphone in bed. ...
  6. Have a bedtime routine. ...
  7. Clear your head before bed. ...
  8. Remember - one night of bad sleep won't hurt.
Mar 4, 2019

What is the anxiety rating scale for youth? ›

The average total score reduces the overall score to a 5-point scale, which allows the clinician to think of the child's generalized anxiety disorder in terms of none (0), mild (1), moderate (2), severe (3), or extreme (4).

What is a high trait anxiety score? ›

STAI scores are commonly classified as “no or low anxiety” (20-37), “moderate anxiety” (38-44), and “high anxiety” (45-80).

What is the name of the test for anxiety? ›

Overview. The Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7) is a seven-item instrument that is used to measure or assess the severity of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Is 6 hours enough for a test? ›

Eight hours is the bare minimum, and some students need as many as ten hours. Aim for eight at the very least, but pay attention to your body. If you're not feeling rested, aim for more.

Should I take melatonin before an exam? ›

Avoid sleep supplements!

Even melatonin, which is available over the counter, has this effect, which can last for several hours after you wake up. The last thing you want to feel on bar exam day is sluggish or lethargic. So, if these are not already part of your sleep routine, avoid at all costs!

How can I pass my exam with little sleep? ›

Exam Revision: The Ultimate Guide to Pulling an All-Nighter
  1. Target select and important information. ...
  2. Leave the caffeine alone. ...
  3. Don't work in bed, on the floor or on a sofa. ...
  4. Get an all-night study buddy. ...
  5. Make a schedule - with breaks. ...
  6. Try and get some sleep at some point. ...
  7. More last-minute revision tips.
Nov 25, 2022


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