Mar 24, 2013


I. What is 'Test Anxiety'?
Test anxiety is a feeling of fear, nervousness, and stress before a test or exam. It's normal to feel a little tension before an exam. In fact, most students experience it - and a little bit can even help you perform better. However, too much nervousness can prevent you from thinking clearly and can adversely affect your performance on the exam.
Test anxiety is actually a part of a wider phenomenon called performance anxiety. You might feel it when you participate in any event where your performance really matters and / or you are being evaluated by others - for example, when you go for an interview, audition for a school play, give a presentation, and so on.
To overcome the tension, you must first understand your anxiety, in terms of its type, causes, symptoms, and effects. Then you can choose the best coping mechanisms for your particular situation.

II. Types of test anxiety
To effectively handle your anxiety, it's helpful to consider if your stress is rational or irrational.
For example, if you haven't prepared adequately, haven't worked through any practice tests, and you started studying only a week before the TOEFL, your fear may be rational. There are obvious ways to reduce such tension, through smarter planning and improved time management.
However, if you prepared well, started studying months in advance, attended TOEFL iBT classes, did practice tests, etc. and still feel extremely nervous,your anxiety may be irrational. You will then need to adopt different strategies to overcome your fear.

Some students feel agitated well before the test – in fact, they may even feel nervous when preparing for the test or thinking about the day of the test. This is known as "anticipatory anxiety".
Other students feel nervous and distressed during the test itself. This is called "situational anxiety."

III. The Symptoms
Go through the following list and count how many of these anxiety symptoms you have experienced before or while taking a test.

·         My stomach feels like it has “butterflies”.
·         My hands perspire or shake.
·         I feel breathless.
·         My heart pounds or races.
·         I feel like throwing up.
·         My mouth feels dry.
·         I feel too cold or too hot.
·         My muscles feel tense.
·         I have a headache.
·         I feel like I’m going to faint.

·         I can’t think.
·         I can’t concentrate or focus.
·         My mind “goes blank”.
·         I can’t remember things I know.
·         I feel confused.
·         I forget what I’m supposed to do.
·         I can’t organize my ideas.
·         I can’t remember key words.
·         My mind drifts to other thoughts.
·         I remember the words or answers after the test is over.

·         I feel that everyone else is fine, except me.
·         I feel frustrated easily.
·         I think I’m going to fail the test.
·         I feel helpless.
·         I feel disappointed in myself.
·         I feel angry.
·         I feel depressed
·         I feel “I can’t do this.”
·         I feel overwhelmed
·         I feel like crying.


Count your score (1 for each symptom) in each of the areas and then add them up to get your total score.


Physiological: ______
Cognitive: ________
Emotional: ________

If you scored more than 7 in any of the above areas, it is recommended that you speak to a counselor about how to alleviate your symptoms. You deserve to feel better!

25 – 30 points
 You experience a very high degree of test anxiety. Please take active steps to overcome this pressure by speaking to a doctor, counselor, or psychologist and learning all you can about the subject. 

19 – 24 points 
Your level of test anxiety is higher than normal. You would benefit greatly by implementing the suggestions on this website as well as seeking out further advice through books, websites, counselors, friends and family.
13 – 18 points 
You experience a normal amount of test anxiety and can improve further by understanding the specific type of symptoms you experience.

6 – 12 points 
You are quite calm when doing a test and can improve further by applying the techniques given.

0 – 5 points
You are very, very cool and in control when doing a test. Continue to maintain your good study habits.

IV. Reducing anxiety
Luckily, there are a number of concrete ways you can reduce and minimize test anxiety before your TOEFL test. These could be divided into three areas: mental, physical and emotional.
The mental strategies below all focus on developing effective study habits. The point here is that by preparing adequately and well in advance, you will have the greatest confidence and the least amount of fear and tension. The only way to lose your fear of the unknown is to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the test so that it no longer remains an unknown to you! 

·         Start preparing months in advance, so you have plenty of time to make progress.
·         Do a pre-test to determine your current level
·         Set up a study plan, based on the time you have available
·         Study in a clean, well-organized environment.
·         Keep your study materials in the same place so you can find them easily.
·         Allow adequate time to cover the primary, secondary and academic skills required
·         Allot more time to develop skills in your weaker areas
·         Join a TOEFL iBT class at a test preparation centre or language school
·         Form a study group and meet once a week to keep motivation high.
·         Find a study partner and meet regularly to test each other.
·         Begin a vocabulary development program
·         Read, listen, speak and write as much English as possible.

Clearly, your brain can perform at its best only if you have taken good care of  your body. This includes many different elements, as described below:
·         Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
·         Eat healthy foods. Your brain needs good nutrition to perform well.
·         Sleep adequately. Being exhausted will not help you in any way.
·         Take short, frequent breaks while studying., You will remember more.
·         Exercise regularly to keep your body fit and healthy.
·         Reduce your dependence on caffeine or nicotine as you will not be able to drink coffee or smoke during your exam.

In your academic and professional life, you must be able to separate who you are from what you do. So although you should put in your best effort, you can’t use your performance to determine who you are or will be in the future. You always have more capability than might have been apparent in a particular test, exam or performance, and you can always try again. You are a multifaceted individual who has many strengths and talents. You are not your grades! The following ideas may help you to feel stronger:
·         Be strong, positive, and calm.
·         Don't think in terms of all or nothing.
·         Plan time for relaxation - it will boost your efficiency.
·         Use visualization techniques to see yourself doing well on the exam.
·         Never give up on yourself. Your life is made up of many elements, not just academic.

May 17, 2012


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