Stress and Tests
A quick overview of the mental health effects of educational tests on students.
By: Chloe Cho, Contributing Writer
Let’s be honest: Tests are probably the worst part of the school. Maybe even the worst part of life. I mean, after all, have you ever heard someone say they love tests?... Well, maybe there are a few exceptions. But for most students, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, tests can bring feelings of disappointment, anger, helplessness, and fear. Why are these the most common reactions to tests? To a student, the answer might be obvious. For anyone who has no clue why here are a few reasons.
For one, tests are often a one-shot chance. Even if a student can retake it, there would most likely be limits. These high stakes put them under pressure, which causes cortisol, the stress hormone, to increase. Expectations from teachers, classmates, and family can pile on even more stress. And with that comes a flood of stress-related symptoms: stomachaches, sleep problems, headaches, and anxiety attacks.
Additionally, if you’re a student, you’ve probably experienced this: You’ve looked at a test question and had no idea what it was talking about. For many students, this can trigger an anxiety attack. Other factors can induce these attacks, one of the most common being the time limit.
Once the test is over, some students might mull over a question hours after. Was that the right answer? Was it wrong? This constant struggle of doubt can lead to even more anxiety. Other students who had trouble with the test might also feel disappointed in themselves. This disappointment, if it repeatedly happens, can grow into despair, self-doubt, and depression. In a survey done in 2003, many teachers agreed that “many students in my class feel, that, no matter how hard they try, they will still do poorly on the state-mandated test.” Though some might believe that low test scores encourage students to work harder, research shows that the opposite is true. This creates a vicious cycle that drives more anxiety, more discouragement, and more loss of motivation.
But of course, no matter how hard we want them to go away, tests are the heart of nearly all educational systems. Since we can’t get rid of them, the best thing we can do is control our feelings about them. If you’re dreading a test, try to change your mindset about it. Rather than thinking, “I’m going to fail the test,” think, “I’ll try my best on the test.” If you’re having an anxiety attack over a test, general stress-relieving methods like taking a walk outside can help your nerves calm down. In conclusion? Whatever happens, make sure your mental health comes first. No test is so important that you neglect the wellbeing of your mind. To stop the vicious testing mentality, there’s only one thing to do: you have to break it.