Which test is more difficult to clarify

Exam anxiety

Exam anxiety is a subspecies of fear. Fear, on the other hand, is the organism's reaction to threatening situations. This is accompanied by various side effects such as excitement, palpitations, nausea and sweating.

One speaks of exam anxiety when the fear relates to a performance situation (exam situation) that is perceived as threatening. The fear or fear of not being able to meet the requirements of the test and, in the worst case, of failing, can be triggered in different ways. Possible causes can be caused, for example, by negative previous experience (bad exam result), by negative stories from third parties (the examiner XY rates hard) or by one's own self-image (I can't do it, I'm not good enough).

The latter is known as self-attribution. This is a state in which one ascribes certain characteristics and properties to oneself without considering other factors. In this situation, you hold yourself solely responsible for the outcome of the exam even before the actual exam. The form of the day, the auditor's mood, the time or simply chance are completely disregarded. The insecurity of being solely responsible for the situation gives rise to the fear of failure or the fear that one's own performance may be inadequate.

At some point the fear of failure develops its own dynamic, which in many cases can no longer be independently controlled. Learning becomes more and more difficult and preparation for the next exam suffers. This in turn increases the fear of not being able to cope with such situations.

Not every bout of nervousness is a serious exam fear. However, there are symptoms that indicate test anxiety and should be taken seriously - especially if they return.

Symptoms of exam anxiety

  • Thinking blocks or blackout during an exam
  • massive impairment of learning before the exam
  • Use of avoidance and suppression strategies: for example postponing or canceling the exam date, postponing learning
  • psychosomatic disorders such as sleep disorders, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervous stomach / intestinal complaints, loss of appetite, nervous restlessness, debilitating fatigue or severe headaches
  • Disturbances of mental performance: Concentration disorders, brooding, attention or memory disorders
  • Mental health disorders: depression, mood swings, irritability, insecurity, self-doubt

Who suffers from exam anxiety?

The answer to this question is not easy to answer. Test anxiety can, in principle, affect anyone. Very few students officially acknowledge their fears and seek help from the university's social services. Many are embarrassed or uncomfortable to admit that they can no longer master their studies on their own. The unreported number of students suffering from exam anxiety is therefore high. Especially since the introduction of the Bachelor-Master system, the psychological services of the universities have recorded an increase in the number of people seeking help. The pressure on the students is increasing!

People who ...

... tend to have very high or excessive demands regarding their performance.

... are prone to strong, negative self-criticism.

... fear failure rather than hope for success.

... pay close attention to their own feelings and reactions.

These tendencies and properties are persistent, but they can be influenced. Students who are prone to one or more of these traits should learn how to influence them in order to avoid test anxiety.

6 tips against exam anxiety

In many cases, you can fight your test anxiety yourself. To do this, you should first conduct research into the causes and find out where your fear comes from and what triggers it - this is the only way to combat it in a targeted manner. We have six simple tips on how to combat exam anxiety and take exams without emotional stress:

1. Check your own setting

It is normal to be a little afraid of an exam. So where does your excessive fear come from? Try to understand what exactly is causing you fear to understand where it is coming from.

2. Remain realistic: do not overwhelm yourself

Anyone who throws their perfectionism and the thought of top performance overboard automatically relaxes. But no false modesty: The thought of successes from past exams helps you to believe in yourself, your abilities and your strengths. What is required? Get an overview of what is required in the upcoming exam, how the exam is structured and what this means for the study effort. Does your knowledge still have gaps? Which points do you already master? If you know what to expect, you can assess the situation more realistically and do not fantasize about possible scenarios at random.

3. Relax

Fear overcomes you and unrest spreads? No need to panic now. Close your eyes for a moment and take a few deep breaths. Going for a walk or exercising can now help to drive away bad thoughts. Autogenic training or yoga exercises are also great ways to reduce stress and relax. Try to find a way for yourself to relax if you feel panic again.

4. Think positive

Sentences like "I can't do that anyway" or "I can't do anything" are taboo as of today, because they are simply not correct. Even if it is difficult at the beginning: Change your inner attitude! "I can do it" should now be your mantra.

5. Encourage yourself

Instead of "I will never make it" you should say to yourself "I want to make it and I will do anything to pass the exam". Instead of "If I'm afraid, it's all over", it now says "I won't let the fear irritate me and will pass the exam". But be careful of overconfidence! Your goals should always be realistic. Instead of "I'm not afraid" you should shift down a gear: "Even if the fear comes, I stay calm and don't let fear get me down."

6. Proper preparation is essential

Leafing through the books aimlessly, underlining something here and there and scribbling a few notes on paper every now and then - to be honest, this is not the best way to prepare for an exam. A little motivation and initiative are part of it. Try creating a study plan for yourself.

Seek help with exam anxiety

Many students who are anxious about exams find it difficult to admit that they can no longer do their day-to-day learning alone. In some cases, however, the test anxiety is so advanced that you can no longer free yourself from the vicious circle of fear, panic and blackout. In this case, professional help should be sought.

Universities offer their students psychological support. This is where professionals sit who are familiar with student problems, including exam anxiety. The first appointment is a kind of introductory appointment. Here you can decide for yourself whether you can build trust in your advisor to tell him about your difficulties. Be honest with yourself. Your well-being is clearly in the foreground here.

General practitioners can also provide good and experienced therapists. Often a few appointments with open discussions help to fathom the origin of the fear and to relieve the tension.

The approach in therapy depends on the individual case - there is no general method. Exam situations are often played out over and over again in the individual sessions in order to take the fear and pressure out of these situations.

Special case: the blackout - emptiness in the head

The exam begins, your hands shake, the first question is asked, the answer does not come to your mind immediately and then: Blackout - your head is empty, what you have learned is as if obliterated, the exam seems to end in disaster. Anyone who has ever had a blackout knows what it is like to search the depths of your brain for the outstanding answer without finding it at the end. In stressful situations it can happen that a blackout is imminent, but it can often be averted with a few simple tricks.

What is a blackout?

In the event of a blackout, access to what has been learned is blocked. This blockage is often associated with arousal as well as physical and psychological tension in connection with helplessness and feelings of powerlessness. Many speak of an emptiness in the head, suddenly everything is gone.

How does a blackout occur?

Indifference and tension are "poison" for our brain, because this basically works best in a medium state of excitement. Therefore, slight nervousness before an exam can even have a performance-enhancing effect. It asks our brain to make an effort. If the tension is too great, individual nerve cells are blocked and the transmission of information no longer works. The result is the dreaded blackout.

How do you prevent a blackout?

The first step in the fight against the blackout is to accept that a blackout can happen and that it does not immediately end in catastrophe. Those who are clear about this and minimize their fear have a good chance of getting the blackout under control. Playing through dramatic test scenarios in your head in advance puts the body in a strong state of excitement. Positive thoughts and memories of previous exam successes combined with relaxation exercises help to minimize stress before the exam.

If you notice that you are panicking during the exam and can no longer find the answers to the questions asked, take a moment and take a deep breath. You can inform the examiner without shame that you are excited and need to take a short breath. Even examiners have a heart and understanding for your excitement.

If you just can't find the red thread, ask the examiner to repeat the question or ask if you can move on to the next exam question. In some exams, questions to which the examinee did not know the answer are repeated at the end. This will give you a second chance to give the correct answer.