Exam stress affects students in various ways and it is vital to control the stress and come up with little ways of helping to mitigate the risk of burnout. Exam stress and test anxiety constructs are situations that spur specific traits that account for individual differences in the extent to which one finds examinations threating. Students who suffer from exam stress and test anxiety respond by experiencing sweaty palms, increased heart palpitations, experiencing mind blanks prior and during the exams, feeling of never having done enough preparations and difficulties in concentrating while studying for the upcoming tests. They also worry about forgetting vital material while studying, fear of failing during the exams or tests, lack of confidence and display physical symptoms such as nausea, lightheadedness, and headaches among others prior to the test. Both the high achieving student and the underprepared student are likely to experience test anxiety. The anxiety can be caused by situational causes such as pressure that comes along with the timed tests, poor study skills, and previous poor test performances. It can also result from mental causes such as fear of getting poor grades, a feeling of lack of control, poor self-esteem and high expectations compared to his/her own performance among others.
Students suffering from exam anxiety undergo various physiological changes that negatively affect their performance and general exam preparation. They experience high arousal that directly interferes with their psychomotor processes that are required for complex problem-solving processes. It also indirectly motivates the escape and avoidance behaviors that negatively affect the orderly preparations for handling exams (Yusefzadeh, Amirzadeh Iranagh, & Nabilou, 2019). The cognitive performance of the individual results in responses that are highly personalized and self-oriented resulting in a shift in the proportion of attention away from the task. As a result, the student's performance suffers due to the diversion of attention, time and other cognitive resources. The students also experience worry, which is a cognitive preoccupation with one's performance and performance consequences in relation to others. This tends to be brought about by internal and external cues that focus on the evaluation and possibility of failure. The feelings of worries are considerably elevated prior and after the exams while emotionality reaches its peak levels at the beginning of the exam. Task-generated interferences are another physiological effect experienced by the students suffering from exam anxiety. This refers to the tendency of being distracted by irrelevant tasks and parameters resulting in one leaving unresolved problems with specified time limits.
Based on my research, would advise Ginny to do the following to reduce her test anxiety:
- She should believe in herself and not worry excessively.
- She should not try to be perfect but aim at doing her level best while understanding that nobody can be perfect at all times.
- She should try and keep things in perspective by interrupting the negative thoughts with positive ones to properly challenge her irrational thoughts.
- She should plan her study time appropriately while incorporating study breaks, i.e., about 50-minute study sessions separated by 5-10 minute breaks.
- She should get herself into study mode by practicing sample tests and looking at past papers and exams while asking her tutor for advice.
- She should plan well, arrive at the exam room early, identify her sitting location and familiarize herself with the exam environment.
- She should avoid stimulants and people that destroy her self-confidence, level of relaxation and focus.
Yusefzadeh, H., Amirzadeh Iranagh, J., & Nabilou, B. (2019). The effect of study preparation on test anxiety and performance: a quasi-experimental study. Advances In Medical Education And Practice, Volume 10, 245-251. doi:10.2147/amep.s192053
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