What Causes Test Anxiety?

Most students face some nervousness before a test, but for many, those nerves become debilitating. This is when general nervousness crosses the line into test anxiety. If you or your child suffers from test anxiety, understanding its roots could give you the tools to overcome it. Read on to learn what causes test anxiety.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a form of anxiety that centers around test taking. It may happen before a test or during the exam, and symptoms vary by person. For many people with test anxiety, the nervous feelings become so overwhelming that they are unable to complete the test or make it to the testing site.

For those who are able to complete tests with test anxiety, their grades are likely to suffer due to cloudy and distracted thinking. Research shows that students with exam anxiety fall at least half a grade letter below their peers.

What Causes Testing Anxiety?

Test anxiety can come from a combination of mental health struggles and situational factors. Common causes of testing anxiety include:

  • Anxiety related to crowded spaces or high-pressure situations
  • Poor study skills
  • Learning disabilities, ADHD, and other conditions that impact academic performance
  • Past trauma related to school or test taking
  • Pressure to make good grades
  • Low self-esteem (using grades as a measure of self-worth)
  • Unrealistic performance expectations
  • Fear of making poor grades or letting others down
  • Depression
  • Feeling distracted by other people in the room (pressure when someone else finishes their test early)
  • Bullying
  • Limited socialization or social skills

At some point, the student has had a negative experience in school or in an exam. This turns normal feelings of nervousness into panic, which can spark even more panic moving forward. With the right coping strategies, you or your child can get past test anxiety and feel more in control of your symptoms.

Is Test Anxiety Real or Just an Excuse?

Test anxiety is a real form of anxiety, and it affects as much as 10 million children in America. Much like any other mental health condition, test anxiety affects different people in different ways. Someone with mild test anxiety may simply feel butterflies before a test, while someone with severe test anxiety may become physically ill on the day of an exam.

No matter where someone falls on the spectrum, test anxiety is not an “excuse.” It is a genuine experience that some people do not grow out of. Thankfully, there are tools and treatments available to help people with test anxiety cope with their symptoms.

Continue on to learn How to Overcome Test Anxiety