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How to overcome test anxiety?

May10, 2021

In small doses, stress can be a positive force that pushes us to stay on our toes and be at our best. However, too much stress can become overwhelming and turn into anxiety. Here are a few tips to help your child overcome their anxiety during exam season.


Some people are anxious by nature, whereas others become anxious only in certain situations. Even though anxiety is often invisible to others, it’s a very real disorder that manifests itself in different ways:

  • Upset stomach
  • Clammy hands
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Memory blanks
  • Etc.


Coping with anxious thoughts

Anxiety has a negative impact on learning because it brings up all sorts of distracting thoughts that have nothing to do with the task at hand. These thoughts can be overwhelming and prevent your child from retaining, processing, or recalling what they’ve learned. When they look at their exam sheet, their mind goes blank.



Finding the source

Some children get extremely anxious because they’re afraid they’ll run out of time or that the questions will be very difficult. However, studies have shown that test anxiety has three main causes:

  • Lack of confidence (the child is convinced that they won’t do well)
  • Lack of preparation (the child knows they haven’t studied enough)
  • Parental expectations (the child is afraid they’ll disappoint their parents)


Did you know

Anxious children tend to blame themselves for their failures and attribute their successes to external factors. To help your child feel proud of their achievements and cope with disappointment, try to strengthen their self-esteem.


If your child is feeling anxious about an upcoming exam, it’s important to be a good listener and to highlight the positives.

  • Talk about past successes
  • Avoid putting pressure on them
  • Acknowledge hard work in addition to good grades
  • Say you’ll love them no matter what
  • Remind them that mistakes and failures are learning opportunities
  • Encourage them to do a fun activity to take their mind off things
  • Show them relaxation exercises
  • Etc.


Learning to self-soothe

To help your child conquer their anxiety and dispel memory blanks, encourage them to use their inner voice. For example, they can self-soothe by reminding themselves of the following:

  • Feeling a little anxious is normal
  • They’re well prepared
  • They’ll remember what they studied
  • They have all the answers in their brain
  • A bad grade isn’t the end of the world
  • Etc.


Minimizing anxiety factors

Fatigue, hunger, lack of focus, and a fear of failure can all contribute to test anxiety. Help your child adopt healthy habits to keep their stress levels at bay:


1. Eat well

If your child has a balanced diet and enjoys what they eat, they’ll find it easier to face exam days head-on. Some foods are especially good for concentration:

  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Homemade muffins
  • Fruit
  • Etc.

If your child needs an extra boost, you can also slip encouraging notes in their lunchbox. To learn more, check out our article on what to eat before an exam.



2. Take mental breaks

After a long study session, it gets harder for the brain to process information. It’s important for your child to focus their attention somewhere else. Here are some activities they can do after an evening of studying, before they get ready for bed:

  • Play a quiet game
  • Read a book
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Etc.


3. Get enough sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential before an exam. Sleep helps your brain consolidate learning, reduces anxiety, and improves concentration, so make sure your child doesn’t pull an all-nighter!



4. Stay active and have fun

When exam season rolls around, studying is key—but so is staying active! After a study session, encourage your child to take a break. Having some fun can do wonders. Plus, exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve concentration.


Written by: The Alloprof Parents Team