It’s test day, and the pressure is on

She sits down at her designated testing location, and recalls all the review she’s done building  up to this test, feeling confident in herself. The proctor does last minute checks and then proceeds to start the test, and as soon as she obtains access to the test, her brain goes bare, all the work she studied for is gone. This is not new to her, because Casey Goettlicher has testing anxiety.

Many students get the jitters and butterflies in their stomachs before a big test, but for junior Casey Goettlicher, the pressures of testing is on a new level.

“Sometimes I get lucky and I can relax and get a good score,” said Goettlicher, “But usually, that’s not the case.”

Testing anxiety is actually a psychological condition, similar to performance anxiety, and it usually occurs when a person is put under pressure to do well. People who experience testing anxiety come in contact with large amounts of distress before, during, and/or after exams.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some frequent causes of testing anxiety are: the fear of failure, lack of preparation, and poor test history. Some symptoms of testing anxiety includes: physical symptoms such as headache and nausea, emotional symptoms like fear and anger, and behavioral symptoms that often are difficulty in concentration and thinking negatively.

However, it is important to know that any type of anxiety and pressure varies from person to person and are strictly personal. For Goettlicher, it is not the tested material nor the lack of preparation that is causing her stress. She explains that she constantly studies to make sure she understands the topic and is prepared. However, it is when she receives the test, the lessons disappear in her head.

“My mind goes blank like there’s a brick wall blocking everything that I’ve learned,” Goettlicher said, “It’s so discouraging and frustrating.”

Goettlicher describes the feelings she gets while testing as a combination of both pressure and anxiety. Goettlicher goes into further detail and explains that she puts more pressure on herself than anything else prior to testing. The anxiety part kicks in during the test which causes her unable to answer the questions.

“The other thing that makes me most anxious on tests is when I have a time limit to complete it [the test],” Goettlicher said, “I always feel like time is running out so I struggle and panic trying to finish.”

From a study by the American Test Anxieties Association, it is revealed that 16 to 20 percent of students suffer from high testing anxiety, making it the most common type of scholastic impairment in schools today. In the same study, it is reported that another 18 percent of students endure a milder form of the anxiety.  

Just like how anxiety differs in everybody, the solutions that people take in attempt to reduce testing anxiety also spreads in a wide range. Some families that have kids affected from testing anxiety have decided to opt the student out of certain exams or standardized tests. There have also been many researches conducted to find other possible solutions to the matter.

One of those researches, published by Cornell University titled “Letting Go of Test Anxiety,” suggests that students who experience testing anxiety can try to reduce the pressure by doing activities such as visualizing success, praising themselves, concentrating breathing, relaxing, and exercise aerobically.

Goettlicher, in the past, have organized separate plans with the school and her teachers to take tests by herself or at a different time to help with the overwhelming tension of testing. However, Goettlicher said that making separate arrangements did not improve the situation and she has since stopped doing so.

“I’ve tried taking SOL’s and finals and even regular tests by myself and that doesn’t really help any bit,” Goettlicher said, “So I just take it with everyone now.”

When asked about how other people react to her dilemma, Goettlicher said that people are not negative towards her when they find out and some have even suggested solutions like study groups. Goettlicher says that it is so sweet of people to provide her with help, but she believes strongly that this is something she will have to find her own answer to and conquer it herself.

“I just have to overcome it myself,” said Goettlicher, “I just haven’t figured out how yet.”