In-depth: Test anxiety affects college students

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by Jenna Harrington

Test anxiety in college students is becoming a big factor in their performance by not allowing them to show their professor what they have learned.

College students in America today experience higher test anxiety than at any other time in the past.  Thirty percent of first year college students report being frequently overwhelmed. Women report being overwhelmed by 40.5 percent. The question was asked in 1985 and levels then were half of what it is today, according to TCU 360.

More students are being pushed to go to college instead of joining the workforce. In the fall of 2016,  20.5 million American teenagers expected to go to a college or university.

The pressure to perform successfully can lead to a a psychological condition called test anxiety. The American Test Anxiety Association has reported 16 to 20 percent of students have high test anxiety, while 18 percent have moderately high test anxiety. This anxiety can be caused by many different influences, such as lack or preparation and the fear of failure.

High test anxiety can result in reducing working memory and confused reasoning, which leads to more wrong answers and lower quiz or test grades.  The difference between high anxiety students and low anxiety students is around 12 percentile points which is about half of a letter grade below.

Symptoms of test anxiety include physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, and behavioral symptoms.  Physical symptoms are headaches, nausea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint.  This can lead to a panic attack, which is described by the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that may make the individuals have a hard time breathing or make them feel like they are having a heart attack.  Emotional symptoms include feelings of anger, helplessness, and disappointment.  Behavioral or cognitive symptoms are thinking negatively, difficulty concentrating, and comparing oneself to others.

Test anxiety can be handled in different ways. These include eating and drinking healthily, getting enough sleep, exercising, seeking help, and good study habits.  It is important to eat and drink healthy so the body and mind can stay fueled. Sleeping eight hours or more is another good habit to get in to, because if students try to pull an all nighter to study chances are that they will be exhausted in the morning compared to well rested.  Counseling centers are also a great resource since, they can help create a good study schedule to follow. They can also help students get extra time on tests if they feel it would benefit the students.  Good study habits can give students plenty of time to prepare for the exam.

Here at Franklin Pierce, there are lot of ways to help students overcome test anxiety. The Center for Academic Excellence is a great place to start. Students can schedule times to come in and meet with someone. These people will help students go over class syllabuses and help come up with a system so students can stay on top of the semester.

The Outreach Center is another service offered that students can visit whenever they need. It offers therapy sessions if a student is feeling overwhelmed or upset.

Test anxiety is a struggle for many Americans and can be difficult to overcome. Students who apply tips are trick to their daily life are more likely to succeed and put the test anxiety behind him.

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