Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety, a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure is on to do well. For example, a person might experience performance anxiety when he or she is about to try out for the school play, sing a solo on stage, get into position at the pitcher's mound, step onto the platform in a diving meet, or go into an important interview.
All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful. This anticipation triggers the autonomic nervous system response (flight or fight). Like other anxiety reactions, test anxiety affects the body and the mind. When you are under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger. That is what causes the physical symptoms, such as sweating, a pounding heart, and rapid breathing. These sensations might be mild or intense.
Just like other types of anxiety, test anxiety can create a vicious circle: The more a person focuses on the bad things that could happen, the stronger the feeling of anxiety becomes. This makes the person feel worse, and because his or her head is full of distracting thoughts and fears, it can increase the possibility that the person will do worse on the test.
People who worry a lot or who are perfectionists are more likely to have trouble with test anxiety. People with these traits sometimes find it hard to accept mistakes they might make or to get anything less than a perfect score. In this way, even without meaning to, they might really pressure themselves. Test anxiety is bound to thrive in a situation like this.
Students who are not prepared for tests but who care about doing well are also likely to experience test anxiety. If you know you are not prepared, it is logical to realize that you will be worried about doing poorly. People can feel unprepared for tests for several reasons: They may not have studied enough; they may find the material difficult; or, perhaps, they feel tired because they did not get enough sleep the night before.
Test anxiety can be a real problem when someone is so stressed out over a test that he or she cannot get past the nervousness to focus on the test questions and do his or her best work. Feeling ready to meet the challenge, though, can keep test anxiety at a manageable level.
Information was excerpted from the following: