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What to do When Stress Turns into Exam Phobia

Students around the world are getting ready to go back to school. With this comes the possibility of increased stress and exam phobia. Parents and teachers should be aware that this is a real psychological condition. Students experience high anxiety, discomfort and fear before and during tests.

Some of the symptoms that can manifest in a student suffering from this disorder are:

  • Dry mouth    

  • Rapid heart beat

  • Panic attacks

  • Shaking

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Suicidal thoughts

Although a small amount of nervous tension is healthy and normal in test-taking situations, when the buildup of this stress hampers your student’s performance, emotional frustration and low self-esteem can also develop due to low scores.

Parents and educators would do well to look out for these symptoms and help the affected child as soon as possible with available counseling, but there are things that students themselves can do to battle their fear of test-taking.


If you do not know something and are faced with answering questions about it, this increases your emotional stress. That is why law enforcement isolates suspects and questions them about criminal activity.

This form of questioning is intended to put pressure on an individual to tell the truth. However, if they do not know, after being in this type of environment where most people would break down and tell the truth, law officers can tell if the person is truly innocent.

This analogy is like taking a test. If you know the work you will be able to write it down and proceed with your day. If not, you will sit there under a hot lamp so to speak under extreme pressure to come up with the right answers. So prepare so that you know the work.

Many students report that they do their best studying the day before a test, but these same students are the ones that attended class every day, took extensive notes while paraphrasing what they were being taught.

When they reported studying the night before, it was not a cram session where the information was new to them, but rather a review of what they already knew because they studied.

Ask Questions/Make a list of these:

  1. Where is the test to be taken?

  2. What time does it start?

  3. How much time will you be given to complete it?

  4. Is if open-book?

  5. What can I bring to help (calculators, textbooks, dictionaries, tape recorder) some professors do allow 3 x 5 cards with limited notations, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

Use Your Time Effectively

Professors do not give out assignments or dates for exams the day before they are going to happen. It is usually 2-3 weeks’ notice. This is to give you time to study the material and have it become a part of you.

It is a proven fact that anything you do for 10-15 days straight becomes a habit. Make it a habit to study every day. When you get your hands on the assignment, for instance, if it is a written paper and you know that this is one of your weaknesses, contact an paper writing service that day, so that they can prepare you an outline and example of how to structure your paper in enough time before it is due.

Healthy Lifestyle

Exercise and good diet are also a way of relieving stress, not only during school, but for your overall health your entire life. When you are fun down physically, it effects your overall resilience. You can strengthen your mind by doing the following with your body:

  • Eat healthy snacks as opposed to friend junky food.

  • Run- if you are healthy enough, it is one of the most exhilarating feelings after you are done. You are alert and fit and ready to ace that test.

  • Get your sleep. College can be a time of independence in levels that you have never experienced. There is no-one to tell you to go to bed. Make yourself get some sleep. The parties can wait till testing is over.

  • 30-minute exercise a day is not hard to do if you get in the habit of doing it every day. You may begin to increase this time the more you do it. In the middle of a study session, put down the books and go for a walk. When you get back you will notice your mind is more open to the content of your studies.

The Day of the Test

Besides arriving early as possible to give you a chance to go over your notes one last time, here are a few things that are proven to help lessen your anxiety during your exam:

·         Read the instructions twice.

·         Survey each page closely.

·         Pay close attention to what is asked.

·         Prioritize what you know right away and answer those questions first.

·         As you pass by questions during your initial survey, use little marks to show which ones you will come back to.

·         Keep pace with the time allowed, check your time regularly.

·         Use Anxiety Reducing Techniques:

Take a few seconds after a few questions to take a deep breath, hold for 3 seconds and let it go completely.

Life your toes and tense your legs for a count of 10 seconds, then let go. Breathe in again and let go completely focusing on your neck back and arms. You can feel the tension leaving your body with these types of techniques.

Use them during your exam, and after your exam also.

Smile! Doing this simple thing can change your mood completely, and the mood of those around you also. The classroom mood is also a contributing factor in successful test taking.

Get involved with your classmates and start study groups. If everyone is on board with getting an A, and supporting each other in their quest to succeed, this lessens stress and exam phobia.

Students, if you are having the type of phobia that seems like it is overwhelming you so much that nothing helps, do not hesitate to seek out an advisor for professional help. It is not a sign of weakness to get help, it takes courage.