Exam stress is the emotional, physiological, and behavioral reactions triggered by an impending test or exam. It may be related to a negative previous exam experience, poor preparation, fear of failure, or performance pressure. Stress is an inevitable part of life. However, signs of academic stress can be challenging to spot.
Being concerned about exams is natural, especially if you’re under duress at school or home. Exam stress can cause anxiety or depression, disrupting your sleeping or eating habits. If you recognize these emotions or are concerned that exam stress is taking over your life, you are not alone, and options are available.
Many articles have been published in response to increased awareness, offering tips and advice on managing and coping with exam stress. Still, little attention has been paid to what it’s like for students experiencing exam stress. Although anyone preparing for and taking exams will likely experience stress and anxiety, research suggests that approximately 15% of students may be classified as ‘highly test anxious.’ These students’ stress and anxiety levels are high enough that their well-being and exam performance can suffer.
The best way to tackle an issue is often at its root. Therefore, it’s worth examining what causes exam stress before finding ways to alleviate it.
What causes exam stress
For students, test anxiety can be an everyday occurrence. It can be helpful to define exam stress and its causes so that students can understand their emotions and regulate their anxiety levels with coping skills. Unfortunately, students preparing for exams may fail to recognize signs of stress. Common indicators include loss of contact with friends, sadness, feeling overwhelmed or unable to make decisions, unmotivated, or physical symptoms such as stomach aches, nail biting, or fidgeting. These signs of anxiety can exacerbate the stress of taking tests by making students less motivated to study or prepare. But what causes these feelings?
Many students are stressed out because of expectations from family members or teachers. Parents expect their children to do well on exams. Students are stressed because they are under pressure to perform well. Of course, parents would never knowingly heap pressure on their children, but it happens, and it can weigh heavily on some students. If needed, good communication and seeking professional support can help students manage external pressure.
If you link your self-worth to your test scores, the pressure you put on yourself can lead to severe test anxiety. A student’s grades on specific exams often determine some aspects of their future studies and career. As a result, many students are stressed out because they fear making mistakes.
Students will feel nervous and anxious as they enter the exam room if they do not believe they have thoroughly covered the reading material. Students should study thoroughly before the exam and not leave exam preparation to the last minute. Last-minute studying will exacerbate anxiety. Students not getting enough sleep before an exam may also experience increased stress.
Ways to reduce exam stress
Adrenaline is a hormone the body produces in times of stress, such as before and during an exam. This helps the body prepare for what is about to happen and is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This response prepares you to stay and deal with the stress or leave the situation entirely. However, for some people, the anxiety symptoms they experience can be so intense that it is difficult, if not impossible, to concentrate on the test. In addition, symptoms like nausea, sweating, and shaking hands can make people feel even more nervous, especially if they are preoccupied with test anxiety symptoms. So, how can we combat this?
Some people view exams negatively, and negative thoughts can cause stress. However, you can reduce stress by adopting a more positive attitude. Keep a close eye on your ideas. Stop actively changing your perspective when you think negatively before or during an exam. A technique known as cognitive restructuring can be used to alter ineffective thinking.
Some people find it helpful to remind themselves of their goals. This can help inspire students to put in the effort to develop the necessary skill sets and work hard during practical placements. For example, students enrolled in the neonatal nurse practitioner programs at Baylor can find motivation in the fulfilling careers that await them when they become qualified neonatal nurse practitioners.
Exercise can help you gain energy, clear your mind, and reduce stress. You can choose physical activities involving other people to get all the benefits while having fun. Walking, cycling, swimming, football, and dancing are all forms of beneficial exercise.
When it comes to exam stress, music works wonders by improving your mood and creating a positive and pleasant environment. As a result, you will be more motivated to study for extended periods with greater concentration.
It is critical to take regular breaks and find ways to relax, no matter how much work you have to do. Taking a break can help you feel more capable of coping and even make concentrating easier when you return to work. In addition, there are numerous stress-reducing activities you can engage in to help you unwind and relax.
Exam stress can manifest in various ways depending on the individual and the type of exam being prepared for. It’s important to remember that everyone learns differently; what works for your friend might not work for you. For example, some people learn best in study groups, while others learn best with colorful notes, and still, others find that doing a lot of practice papers is the most beneficial. Understanding how your brain works and learns will help you study more productively and effectively.