The Real Cost of Test Anxiety on Students

Your heart is thumping fast. Your stomach feels uneasy. It feels like you’re going to vomit anytime soon. Why? Simple. There’s a test coming up at school. It sounds funny, but many students are suffering from test anxiety without even knowing what it means to them and how it can impact their future.

The American Test Anxieties Association reported that about 16% to 20% of students have high test anxiety. Another 18% have moderately-high test anxiety. How prevalent is test anxiety among students? The majority of students surveyed, especially those in college and universities, said they haven’t been as stressed as they are with schoolwork. In fact, a lot of them have dropped out of college because they couldn’t take the stress of complying with school requirements.

College students seek counseling services all the time because, on top of peer pressure and the need to excel, they also experience severe test anxiety. They clam up before, during, and after a major exam or presentation. They worry about an exam coming up days, weeks, and even months before the actual day arrives.

Three Characteristics of Test Anxiety

What is test anxiety, and how can you recognize you have one? This is one of the easiest types of anxieties to diagnose. There are three components of test anxiety: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Cognitive is when the students lack the self-confidence to believe they can pass the test. They think of negative thoughts. They usually doubt their abilities to answer the exams correctly. When they don’t answer the exam as correctly as they thought they should, they will not rest and will think they failed even before receiving the exam’s results.

Affective perspective is when the students feel physiological reactions because of test anxiety. These reactions include increased heart rate, cold hands, perspiration, muscle spasms, dry mouth, nausea, and frequent urination. Aside from these physical reactions of the body, the students will also worry, fear failure, and fail to control their emotions.

The behavioral perspective affects how the students prepare for the exam. These could be the reason why the students have test anxiety in the first place. Test-anxious students have a harder time preparing for exams. They procrastinate, and they have bad study habits. These students are also the ones who do not do regular exercise, have poor sleeping habits, and do not follow a proper diet. These lead them to a slower and inefficient understanding of concepts and theories.


What Happens to Students with Test Anxiety?

Students who do not address their problems with test anxiety often have to drop out of school. The mental toll of being in a college or university eventually pushes them out of the system. Many of them would rather work as a part-timer or in a low-income job to get out of school. Since they cannot handle the anxiety that comes with the schoolwork, they think of this as a sign that they aren’t cut out for college.

The problem isn’t simply students walking out of school. They suffer from low-paying jobs, and they are the ones who have trouble maintaining a stable income. It has a huge impact on their future families and their retirement.

Students who do not understand why they feel the way they are feeling will lose the drive to reach for their dreams. At first, they entered college full of hope, but that can give way to feelings of regret. Why couldn’t they have finished high school and looked for a job? Now, they have a student debt to worry about.

And even if they finish college, those who never dealt with their test anxiety issues will have a harder time at work. It is going to be the same thing over again for them. They’ll get jitters every time they have to present before their team. When the boss calls them for a couple of questions regarding work, their hearts will beat so fast it feels like they are going to collapse. How can they survive with such feelings?

If you have test anxiety, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s perfectly normal to fear the unknown, but you shouldn’t let it take over your life. Seek professional help if you need to. Reach out to your friends and make sure you have the support you need. Students go through a myriad of emotions in the four years they are in college. Don’t expect that it’ll be a different experience for you. Rather, prepare yourself for the emotional and mental toll of college life.