This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


What Is Test Anxiety & What Does It Feel Like?|What Causes Test Anxiety?

Has it ever happened that your child finished homework, studied well, and went to class for appearing the test or exam quiet confidently; but while taking the test it became really difficult for your child? Well! It can be quite normal most of the times; however, in case your child has test anxiety, it becomes extremely difficult to take test. The child starts experiencing great anxiety and distress in the examination hall or the testing situations. Now, what test anxiety feels like and what causes test anxiety? To know about these, do read the following sections.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a kind of psychological condition where the affected individual experiences extreme anxiety and distress during the testing situations. Test anxiety is a major predictor of academic performance and there are a lot of studies which have stated that it has got a detrimental effect.(1)

Though most of the affected persons are known to experience some kind of stress as well as anxiety before or during the examinations, it is also known that test anxiety can even impair learning and also hurt the performance at the test. Test anxiety is a kind of performance anxiety and at times persons with test anxiety can become so much anxious that they fail to give their best in the examinations.

Even though the person has knowledge and skills about the subject, yet if there is test anxiety in the person, their performance in the test or examination is impaired or greatly hampered. It must be noted that test anxiety’s severity can actually vary from person to person. Some individual might feel like having butterflies in their stomach, while other might have difficulty in concentrating during the examination.

Though slight nervousness can be beneficial, making you feel alert mentally and getting you ready for tackling up the challenges in your examination; however, anxiety that holds stress levels crossing a particular limit can be really dangerous as it would make you so nervous that you fail to concentrate on your questions and might really struggle hard recalling the things that you might have studied for your test. This inability to concentrate or recall studied information during exam again contributes to more and more stress and anxiety.

What Test Anxiety Feels Like?

As per The Anxiety And Depression Association of America, patients of test anxiety might feel various emotional, physical, as well as cognitive or behavioral symptoms. It must be mentioned that test anxiety may feel considerably different in different people and the symptoms of test anxiety might be mild to severe. Mild symptoms are manageable while in severe cases, patients might not be able to perform their test even as they might get extreme panic attacks during the examination.

Let us take a better look on what test anxiety feels like:

Physical Symptoms Of Test Anxiety:

Some of the physical symptoms of test anxiety include nervousness, sweating, rapid heartbeat, shaking, fainting, dry mouth, and nausea. In some mild cases, one can experience butterflies in the stomach, but; in severe cases of test anxiety the patient can actually become physically ill.

Emotional Symptoms Of Test Anxiety:

Emotional symptoms of test anxiety might include low self esteem, depression, feeling of hopelessness, and anger. These symptoms may also result in poor test performance in the students and may further lead to more of depression and anxiety.

Cognitive And Behavioral Symptoms Of Test Anxiety:

These symptoms might include outright avoidance of the testing situation. In some cases of test anxiety, it might be so severe that students would drop out of the school or college so as to avoid the primary source of anxiety or fear. Apart from this, there may also be substance abuse by the students so as to self-treat their test anxiety.

There are evidences that suggest that there were many who blank out on answers during their test even after studying or preparing hard for the examination. Some other cognitive and behavioral symptoms of test anxiety might be negative self-talk, racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating.

What Causes Test Anxiety?

Now, what exactly causes test anxiety? Well! For many it can occur because of a combination of several things; such as poor performance in the test in their past, poor study habits, and an underlying issue of anxiety or nervousness. However, there are also some other causes of test anxiety and we are going to read them below.
We will be reading about the causes of test anxiety under the following sub headings for a better understanding on the same.

Biological Causes Of Test Anxiety:

There are some biological causes of test anxiety. The body releases adrenaline hormone before or during any examination. This assists the body to prepare for dealing with what is going to happen and it is commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Ideally, this fight-or-flight response prepares you either to remain and deal with the stress or to escape the test situation entirely. In many cases, this adrenaline rush is really a good thing and it helps you in dealing with stressful situations quite effectively, ensuring that you are quite ready and alert for the testing situation.

However, in case of some people the anxiety symptoms that occur during these situations can actually get so excessive that it makes them find it really difficult or in fact quite impossible to focus on the examination or the test. Nausea, shaking of hands, sweating, and fatigue might occur in people with test anxiety and they may be completely nervous and fail to appear the test.

Mental Causes Of Test Anxiety:

Apart from the biological causes, there are several mental causes of test anxiety. Some of them include the students/persons’ own expectations regarding the test performance, expectations from others, a past history of poor test performance, being unprepared or not studying before examination, being quite afraid about failure in the test, can also result in increasing symptoms of test anxiety.

Tests and grades are really challenging realities for school and college going students. It is very true that achieving goals is very much important and for that you need to perform well in your examination. However, it is also important for you to understand that it is not just the test situations by themselves that might result in anxiety; rather it is the way you interpret the situation or what exactly test mean that create the test anxiety. Generally, students interpret test situations in quite negative or extreme manner, and this actually increases the anxiety and lead to poor test performances.(2)


Though there are some real causes of test anxiety that can really cause severe anxiety in people appearing any test or examination and can also hamper their test performance, there are also several ways to manage the anxiety. By learning about the possible causes and taking essential help from family and friends, and by consulting with a doctor, one can come out of the symptoms of test anxiety.

Reference Links:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080448947003043
  2. https://www.usu.edu/asc/test_anxiety/stress/smcause

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 9, 2019

Recent Posts

Related Posts