Test Taking Stress: How is it caused? How can you overcome it?
By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer
Every year, students around the globe take hundreds of tests. Whether it is just a short unit test, or a life deciding university entrance exam, they always cause immense stress. Sometimes, stress can be so severe that it causes panic attacks, emotional breakdowns, and even suicide. Based on an article by The Guardian which discusses exam time stress, it states that in England, suicide by young people peaks near examination time. This is concerning to hear since students of almost all ages take tests at least once a year, so students must be able to minimize their stress. In order to understand how to avoid anxiety, one must understand the causes of exam and school stress.
What might cause exam stress among students?
The pressure to succeed: this is arguably the most common reason for stress in students. Success is prestigious in the modern world; humans crave success. This topic is extremely general, so I will break this idea down into several more specific points.
Pressure from Parents: when children are born, their parents want the best for them. This may mean that they’ll push their children to work hard and become prosperous. Not to mention, parents may convince their young, impressionable children into accepting horrible consequences with the result of poor grades. Therefore, these children will feel obligated to succeed and receive top marks at school. Although this mindset may not be horrible, it can have devastating effects on one’s mental health. To start, students who are pressured by their parents will feel very anxious during tests and quizzes. As they complete their assessments, they will inevitably think about their parent’s words, which will cause them to lose focus and likely make errors. With a distraction, it is much tougher for students to do their best, and get the grades that they deserve. Once the students get their marks back, many of them will feel disappointed in themselves for achieving a poor grade and once they show their scores to their parents, they will likely receive a scolding and become even more pressured to succeed next time. It is an endless cycle, so it is extremely important for parents to not pressure their kids.
Pressure from peers: this is less common amongst most students. Usually, pressure from peers comes from classroom rivalries. It tends to be between the two top students in the class, chasing the coveted award of the top student. The issue with this is that your goals are not based on your current achievement, but are based on the achievement of others. When you set a goal for yourself, it must be logically based on your current success. It can be irrational to set a goal based on a peer, as their mindset is different compared to yours. To add on, students themselves are already stressed enough about their own marks. Now, with the addition of a rivalry, you will be stressed about your own mark and their grades; twice as much stress!
Peer pressure B: In certain situations, the pressure is caused by infatuation. There may be a student who receives top marks that you may have feelings for, and the only way for you to get their attention is to also be as successful as them. One knows themselves best. If one wants to catch the attention of someone, they should speak with them instead of overworking themselves in order to be spoken to. Stress from love may be the worst type of stress since it refers to who you are as an individual. It can have a detrimental effect on one’s self-confidence and wellbeing, so it is best to not unnecessarily become stressed over a potential relationship.
Lack of self-confidence: this type of stress is not caused by anyone else; it is caused by yourself. While you’re studying, you may feel great about the concepts that will be on your next test. You may understand everything with precision. However, when you’re taking your test, once you read the first question, and it’s harder than expected, you believe that you’re destined to fail. It particularly occurs in students who battle with anxiety under pressure.
How to avoid test-taking and overall school stress?
Speak to your parents about grades and your expectations: in order for your parents to not pressure you, you must inform them about your current academic situation and your expectations for the upcoming assessment. If they are able to understand what you want as a student, they will not pressure you based on their mindset. Without their oppression, one will feel more comfortable during tests as they know that their guardians understand and appreciate their goals.
Avoid rivalries in class, and create alliances: rivalries can make one feel more isolated in class. Furthermore, without any support from your peers, you may have difficulty succeeding. Therefore, it is best to stop being petty with competitions and to start working with other bright peers to study effectively for the next assessment. It is mandatory to be able to collaborate with other classmates as most future career opportunities involve teamwork. As well, the support from peers will get rid of your rivalry stress, and thus, makes one less stressed overall.
Deal with infatuation more maturely: don’t get me wrong, excellent academic performance, and a desire to learn is quite attractive, but is it really worth all the faking and excessive work? There is no point in working extremely hard if you aren’t passionate about what you're learning. Find other ways to interact with your love interests, like texting them, speaking with them, going to restaurants with them, etc.
Believe in yourself!: If you’re able to successfully answer questions concisely with ease, you will do well on the test or quiz. A positive mindset will lead to success. Be sure to understand that the test will be challenging and that some questions will be difficult to answer. Just make sure you’re aware that you know how to answer any question of that paper because you reviewed everything that may possibly be on that test. A feeling or preparedness will lower your anxiety and increase your confidence.
All students will experience school-related stress at least once in their lives; it’s part of the process. Just understand that most stress is easily avoidable by understanding who you are and trusting yourself. Making the right decisions can also minimize stress, and maximize your success. But most importantly, a healthy relationship at home can help one feel understood by their parents, and not pressured.