Exam anxiety: Tips to overcome testing situation for students

A certain amount of exam anxiety keeps us energized, motivated, alert, and focused.

Exam anxiety: Tips to overcome testing situation for students
Students with either high or low anxiety can respond to tests in different ways. (Representational image)

By Dr Samant Darshi

Exam anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations. While many people experience some degree of stress and anxiety before and during exams, test anxiety can actually impair learning and hurt test performance.

Students with either high or low anxiety can respond to tests in different ways. The challenge is to recognise when your anxiety has increased past an optimal level so that it starts to impact your ability to complete the exam – this is a high level of anxiety. Some physical responses of high anxiety include a speeding heart, damp hands, shortness or rapid breath, and feeling queasy.

1. What is anxiety? How is it different from fear?

It is common for most people to get confused between fear and anxiety.

Fear: Fear is a basic human emotion and experienced in response to an immediate danger, it prepares the body for immediate escape from a threatening situation.

Anxiety: Anxiety on the contrary is a response to perceived threat; it is experienced in anticipation of a future danger.

2. What is the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders?

Anxiety: Anxiety is not always detrimental instead it facilitates human preparedness and adaption to stressful situations. Optimal anxiety is instrumental in enhancing motivation, learning and performance.

Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders on the contrary are marked by the experience of significant distress and impair the functioning of an individual.

3. Can exam anxiety be helpful?

A certain amount of exam anxiety keeps us energized, motivated, alert, and focused. But too much anxiety can interfere with exam performance by blocking our recall or thinking abilities, by fostering negative frames of mind, or even by promoting panic reactions.

4. Exam anxiety can result in?

Physical Indicators:

  • Perspiration, sweaty palms, feeling too hot or cold
  • Headaches, upset stomach, nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat, shallow/irregular breathing, dizziness
  • Muscle tightness

Emotional Indicators:

  • Feeling guilty, angry, depressed or unsure
  • Procrastination and avoidance
  • Excessive study
  • Over/Under eating
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue or inability to relax
  • Alcohol or drug misuse

Cognitive indicators:

  • Negative or defeating self-talk
  • Excessive worry
  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Difficulty retrieving or selecting key terms or concepts
  • Difficulty organizing, integrating or expressing your thoughts
  • Going blank on exam questions
  • Remembering the correct answers after the exam is over

5. What are some things that can reduce exam anxiety?

In weeks before the exam

Study habits:

  • Studying in advance
  • Organization of material
  • Time management

Stress reduction:

  • Practice methods of relaxation and stress reduction
  • Listen to relaxing music

Healthy living:

  • Balance sleeping and eating
  • Create a balanced schedule that includes some breaks, exercise and social activity
  • Setting realistic study goals

On the day of exam


  • Get adequate sleep
  • Eat a moderate and healthy breakfast (and lunch)
  • Take it easy on caffeine
  • Arrive at the exam location early


  • Do something relaxing the hour before the exam
  • Last minute cramming may cloud your course knowledge
  • Avoid classmates that could upset your composure by wanting to chat or go over last-minute information.
  • If anxiety increases while you wait for the exam to begin, use relaxation and visualization methods or distract yourself by thinking of your after-exam plans.

During the exam

  • First Impression
  • Organize Yourself
  • Tackling Exam Questions

(The author is Consultant -Psychiatrist ,Psymate Noida. The article is for imformation purpose only, please consult professionals before starting any medicaiton or therapy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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First published on: 22-02-2021 at 16:23 IST