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Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which a person experiences distress before, during, or after a test or other assessment to such an extent that this anxiety causes poor performance or interferes with normal learning. It deserves notice due to its prevalence amongst the student populations of the world. The original research and development of the TAQ (Test Anxiety Questionnaire) was conducted by G. Mandler and S.B. Sarason in 1952.



It has been shown through studies that test anxiety has a strongly negative relationship with test performance.

  • Physicalheadaches, nausea or diarrhea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heart beat, and/or dry mouth.
  • Emotional — excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, or, taken to extreme levels, depression; uncontrollable crying or laughing, feelings of helplessness
  • Behavioralfidgeting, pacing, substance abuse, avoidance
  • Cognitive — racing thoughts, 'going blank', difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk, feelings of dread, comparing oneself to others, difficulty organizing one's thoughts


Test anxiety can develop for a number of reasons:

  1. There may be some prior negative experience with test taking that serves as the activating event.
  2. Students who have experienced, or have a fear of, blanking out on tests or the inability to perform in testing situations can develop anticipatory anxiety. Worrying about how anxiety may affect oneself can be as debilitating as the anxiety itself.
    • This kind of anxiety can build as the testing situation approaches, and can interfere with a student's ability to prepare adequately.
  3. Lack of preparation can contribute to test anxiety. Poor time management, poor study habits, and lack of organization can lead to a student feeling overwhelmed.
    • Students who are forced to cram at the last minute tend to feel less confident about the material covered than those who have been able to follow a structured plan for studying. Being able to anticipate what the exam will cover, and knowing all the information has been covered during the study sessions, can help students to enter the testing situation with a more positive attitude.
  4. Test anxiety may also have a genetic component.
  5. Lack of confidence, fear of failure, and other negative thought processes may also contribute to test anxiety. The pressure to perform well on exams is a great motivator unless it is so extreme that it becomes irrational.
  6. Perfectionism, low self-esteem, and feelings of unworthiness provide unreasonable goals to achieve through testing situations. When a student's self-esteem is too closely tied to the outcome of any one academic task, the results can be devastating.
    • In these situations, students may actually spend more time worrying about the test than actually studying for it.

Research Studies

Mandler, G., & Sarason, S. B. (1952). A study of anxiety and learning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 47, 166-173.

TestEdge National Demonstration Study Raymond Trevor Bradley, Ph.D., Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Mike Atkinson, Lourdes Arguelles, Ph.D., Robert A. Rees, Ph.D. and Dana Tomasino

A 2006 U.S. Department of Education-funded study conducted by the Institute of HeartMath and Claremont Graduate University with 980 10th-grade students found that 61% of all students reported being affected by test anxiety. Also, 26% experienced high levels of test anxiety often or most of the time. The study used a quasi-experimental, longitudinal field design, involving pre- and post-intervention panels of measurement within a multimethods framework. The study found a strong negative relationship between test anxiety and test performance: Students with high levels of test anxiety scored, on average, 15 points lower on standardized tests in both mathematics and English-language arts than students with low test anxiety. (See References below for study abstract and PDF's of the executive summary or complete study.)

See also


External links

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