Parents often are frustrated with students who come home with poor test scores, thinking they did not study enough or pay attention in class. Often this is far from what is really going on. The child may be suffering from performance anxiety, even if they know the material forward and backward before entering the testing room.

The fact is low tests scores are not always indicative of a lazy or unmotivated person. Many very intelligent people are not able to take a test.

My friend, Mary, once told me, “I can’t take a test! I feel so stupid. I try really hard to pay attention, take good notes, and I know everything backwards and forwards, yet as soon as I enter the testing room my mind is a complete blank!” She added, “When it doesn’t really matter whether I do well or not, I can ace it. What’s wrong with me?” Mary suffers from “test anxiety,” – a form of performance anxiety where the pressure is on to de well in certain situations.

A little angst before taking a test is normal. When it gets to a point where you freeze up or zone out, then you have a problem!

What Causes Test Anxiety?

Performance anxiety is caused by stress, and can manifest itself in physical or mental symptoms – such as butterflies in the stomach, pounding heartbeat or headaches.

Perfectionists, who put pressure on themselves to be the best, or people who’s parents are putting pressure on them to get good grades are among the top people to undergo added pressure. Ironically, this pressure is what stops them from achieving their best.

Others who experience test anxiety are usually unprepared, may find the material too difficult, did not get enough rest, or are not getting the proper nutrition.

What Can I Do To Stop the Anxiety?

There are numerous techniques to improve your memory that can be used to eliminate test anxiety.

  1. Be prepared. The better you know the material the easier it is to remember, and the more confident you will feel.  Don’t cram the night before the test, it won’t help! You can’t learn in one night what you should have been learning all along. If you don’t understand the subject matter, ask your teacher to explain – or get a tutor. Develop good study habits, and learn to improve your study skills.
  2. Manage your time. Don’t procrastinate about studying just before a big test. Organize your study room and materials to make learning more comfortable.
  3. Ignore Distractions. Turn off the radio and television when studying. It may seem you can think better with background noise, but your concentration level is lower since you are trying to do more than one thing, and not concentrating on the subject at hand.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep – at least 8 hours, prior to taking a test. Studies show people who got enough rest before a test were three times more likely to do well when taking a test.
  5. Eat a nutritious meal just before a test. If the test is in the morning start off with a good breakfast. Food fuels the body, and the mind. Make the meal high in protein and low in sugar. Too much sugar gives your body a quick rush, but has a quick decline as well, so you may start off quick from the gate, but your finish leads a lot to be desired.
  6. Put yourself in a positive frame of mind. Don’t worry about the consequences if you don’t pass the test, focus on the fact you will pass – with flying colors. By putting your emphasis on the negative you leave no room in your brain for the test questions themselves. Also, don’t worry about your anxiety, it just makes you more anxious.
  7. 7. Ask for help! Consult with memory experts or take some memory training courses to help you re-learn how to remember and develop good study habits.


Increase Concentration And Recall – Extinguish Test Anxiety:

Study Guides and Strategies website – Overcoming test anxiety:

Teens Health (from Nemours) – Test Anxiety: