Examination Anxiety

Adolescents are often faced with a series of examinations in their student life. In the current competitive world, expectations of academic success, which is measured by one's scores on examinations, have made them a source of great stress for adolescents.  
Anxiety and stress are normal responses to events that make an individual feel threatened or create tension.  Examination anxiety is a state wherein an adolescent may experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations. It can occur before, during or after the examination. Most commonly, the examination anxiety may be caused by a feeling of being underprepared for the exam, which may be a result of cramming the night before the exam, poor study habits, poor time management, or a lack of organization in one's study routine, in note-making, and homework.
The feeling described as examination anxiety takes many forms in adolescents. Some of them include:
  • Feeling confused or getting blank during the test
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness
  • Emotional symptoms such as feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment
  • Behavioral/Cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing oneself to others. 
Appropriate guidance and support from parents play a vital role in dealing with examination anxiety in adolescents and also helps them in coping with the same. Parents can adopt a few strategies that can help them offer a better support to their adolescent at the time of his/her crisis. These include:
  1. Helping the adolescent create a regular study schedule. This will help the adolescent to prepare adequately for an examination, leading to lesser stress and anxiety.
  2. Urging the adolescent to ask for help with study skills and also encouraging them to ask teachers or a school counsellor for help with learning more efficient ways to study for tests.
  3. Encouraging regular breaks while studying to refresh the mind and to increase one's capacity to grasp better. 
  4. Training the adolescent in relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation, mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, meditation, etc., to equip them to effectively handle anxiety before an examination.  
  5. Encouraging the adolescents to eat healthy before a test as it helps in maintaining one's energy levels and helps to focus well.
  6. Encouraging positive techniques in adolescents such as time management, positive attitude and preventing negative self-talk.
  7. Ensuring adequate sleep especially before the exam to reduce examination anxiety and to improve concentration and focus.  
  8. Seeking professional advice may also be important in helping the adolescent deal with examination anxiety and stress.

"To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around." - Richie Norton