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High School Exam Anxiety: How to Overcome It and Excel in Your Tests

Rekha Varghese
Sep 4, 2023
Schools, Learning
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In the enchanting high school memories, there exists a formidable adversary that strikes fear into the hearts of students across the globe - the dreaded high school exam. 

As you stand on the verge of academic challenges, your mind races with a flurry of questions: 

● Will I remember everything I studied? 

● What if I blank out during the exam? 

● Am I really prepared for this? 

These are the whispers of exam anxiety, a shadow that looms over the path to academic success, threatening to cast its paralyzing spell. 

But fear not, in this article, we will uncover the secrets of High school in Bangalore, as in their tips on how to conquer exam anxiety and unleash your true potential. We will also unveil the keys to not just surviving high school exams, but thriving with confidence. 

What is exam anxiety?

Exam anxiety is referred to as anxiety for exams or tests. Students have stressful mentalities prior to, during, or after the exam or test. It affects students of all ages, it can be sometimes so intense that it may affect a student's performance.

Impact on Performance: Studies have shown that exam anxiety can be so severe that it might affect students' recall value. They might fail to demonstrate what they've learned and have difficulty in problem-solving. This can dishearten students who have prepared day and night for their exams

Prevalence: Studies show that around 25% to 40% of students experience some form of exam anxiety which means it's not an isolated issue affecting millions of students worldwide.

Causes: Exam anxiety can be caused due to many reasons such as fear of failure, high expectations, lack of preparation, past negative results or experiences etc. Understanding the real reason is essential for effectively managing and reducing exam anxiety.

Long-term Effects: If left unaddressed; it can hinder academic progress, and it can persist into adulthood, affecting various aspects of life.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of exam anxiety:

● Physical Symptoms: While facing the exam, the student's body might react in various ways. They might experience a fastened heartbeat, sweating palms or perspiration all over the body, muscle tension, head and stomach aches, and even nausea. These physical symptoms can be quite traumatic which can make it difficult to concentrate during the exam.

● Cognitive Symptoms: Exam anxiety is so intense that it clouds an individual’s thinking and disrupts their cognitive processes. Students may find it difficult to focus and experience rapid continuous negative thoughts such as fear of failure or blanking out during the test. These thoughts can be overwhelming and lead to self-doubt.

● Behavioral Symptoms: Some individuals with exam anxiety might exhibit avoidance behaviors such as skipping classes on days when exams are there or procrastinating studies to delay the stress. All these negative actions can impact their academic results.

Exam anxiety is more than just feeling nervous; it involves a complex interplay of physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms that can significantly impact a student’s academic performance and overall well-being. 

What are the common symptoms of exam anxiety? 

Symptoms and intensity can vary from person to person, but recognizing them is the first step towards managing them. Let's understand the common symptoms of exam anxiety in detail

● Physical Symptoms:

● Increased Heart Rate: One of the most noticeable physical signs an individual heart may beat faster than usual. This is the body's "fight or flight" response, to prepare a  person to deal with a perceived threat.

● Sweating: Extreme sweating on the entire body is a sign of anxiety where the body regulates temperature during a stressful situation.

● Muscle Tension: Tension in muscles such as stiffness mainly in the neck, shoulders, or back which can be uncomfortable, distracting and painful at times.

● Shaking or Trembling: Some individuals experience trembling, shivering, and shaky hands which makes it difficult to write or hold things.

● Gastrointestinal Distress: Nervousness can trigger gastrointestinal issues like stomach issues, nausea, diarrhea, or feeling the need to go to the washroom frequently. This can be quite disruptive during an exam.


● Cognitive Symptoms:

● Difficulty in Concentrating: Anxiety makes it difficult to focus on the things you are learning or exam papers. Student’s minds wander, finding it hard to concentrate.

● Memory Problems: Anxiety can affect memory, where students might become blank or find it difficult to recall information during the exam.

● Negative Self-talk: Students might doubt their abilities, engage in negative self-talk, might think about all the worst possible outcomes etc.

● Behavioural Symptoms:

● Procrastination: Some students might procrastinate studying to avoid the stress or fear associated with exams.

● Avoidance: In extreme cases, students might avoid exams fearing failure or being blank during exams or to avoid stressful situations which can have a serious impact and affect academic progress.

● Emotional Symptoms:

● Increased Anxiety: As the exam date approaches, anxiety levels might become high which can be noticed from their behaviours like nervousness, restlessness, and a constant feeling of uneasiness.

● Irritability: During exams, some students might become irritable and may have mood swings, where they might find difficulty in normal conversation with friends and families because they might feel triggered even by small things. 

● Fear of Failure: A significant emotional feeling or fear of failure can overwhelm them leading to constant thoughts of disappointing oneself or others.

It's important to recognize these symptoms early so that consulting with specialities can help in managing them effectively, reducing stress and helping students to give their best during exams. 

Negative impact of exam anxiety on school students 

Exam anxiety can have profound negative impacts on students, affecting their academic progress and overall well-being. Understanding these impacts is necessary in order to address and manage them effectively. So let’s understand one by one.

Affecting Academic Performance:

● Reduced Test Scores: One of the most direct consequences of exam anxiety is a failure in performance resulting in lower or reduced scores. The reason for lower grades can be due to difficulty in recalling information, making silly mistakes or even going blank during exams.

● Impaired Problem-Solving: Anxiety may hinder students' ability to think critically and solve problems is an important skill during the academic year.

● Inconsistent Performance: Students with exam anxiety have inconsistent performance where they might excel in coursework but fail to perform during exams.

● Difficulty Completing Assignments: Anxiety sometimes might affect their daily routine, where they fail to concentrate, and have difficulty performing certain tasks or finishing assignments and homework.

Affecting Mental and Emotional Well-being:

● Stress and Worry: Exam anxiety can be chronic as it can affect a student's mental health. 

● Low Self-esteem: Prolonged anxiety can lower a student's self-esteem in the long term leading to negative thoughts and self-doubt.

● Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Long-term exam stress can contribute to depression in life, where students may not be interested in anything.

● Social Isolation: Students dealing with exam anxiety might keep them isolated from social activities, friends and family which can lead to loneliness.

● Affecting Physical Health:

● Physical Ailments: Chronic anxiety can lead to head or stomach aches, muscle tension, or immune disorder making students more susceptible to illnesses.

● Sleep Disturbances: Students with Anxiety may fail to sleep properly or have poor quality sleep leading to insomnia which can further cause stress and fatigue.

● Negative Coping Mechanisms:

● Wrong addiction: In an attempt to alleviate anxiety, some students may follow unhealthy coping mechanisms such as addiction to alcohol or drugs which can have serious consequences for their well-being.

Long-Term Impact:

● Future Opportunities: Persistent exam anxiety can lead to students' poor performance limiting their access to the best educational and career opportunities.

● Career Implications: The prolonged anxiety can have a negative impact extending into adulthood affecting job performance and career advancement.

Recognizing these negative symptoms is the first step in addressing exam anxiety and implementing strategies to mitigate its impact.

Top 11 tips to overcome exam anxiety for high school students

Here are some Exam anxiety for high school students

International school Effective Study Techniques:

● Time Management: Plan your study schedule well in advance will help students avoid last-minute stress. It will also provide enough time to prepare for each subject or topic along with revision. Breaking down study sessions into manageable chunks will help to maintain focus.

● Active Learning: Instead of adopting passive learning techniques like highlighting notes students should engage themselves in active learning techniques like summarizing, teaching the concept to friends or explaining it to family members, which helps in better comprehension and retention.

Healthy Lifestyle:

● Regular Exercise:

Incorporating regular physical activity into daily routine helps in releasing endorphins which reduce stress and boost mood.

● Balanced Diet:

Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients helps to exacerbate anxiety. Foods that cause stress should be avoided such as caffeine, salty and sugary foods.

● Adequate Sleep:

Prioritize the following routine and sleep early around 10 pm which will help you wake up early ensuring quality sleep. A relaxed body and mind will equip students to handle stress.

Relaxation Techniques:

● Deep Breathing:

Practice deep breathing exercises or meditations to calm your mind and nervous system. 

● Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Mentally prepare to contract target muscles, you will notice the muscles becoming tighter or firmer, hold it for a few seconds as much as possible and then release the targeted muscle group in your body to alleviate physical tension.

● Mindfulness and Meditation:

Mindful techniques or practices can help you stay present and reduce anxiety. 

Positive Self-talk:

● Challenge negative thoughts:

Students should replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and should avoid self-doubting. 

● Practice, Practice, Practice:

Practice as many exam papers in order to become familiar with the format and challenges so that you can be well prepared and it will also reduce anxiety on the actual exam day.

● Stay Organized: Keeping your study materials organized like study notes in separate files for each subject will help to avoid last-minute goof-ups and reduce stress 

● Seek Support:

● Take Support:

Take help from teachers and counselors or professionals as they can guide you better and provide assistance or resources to manage it

● Form study groups:

Studying with classmates together can help in sharing knowledge and discussing concepts that are difficult to understand resulting in better comprehension and retention.

● Visualization:

Positive imagination: Imagining yourself that you have successfully completed the exam and performed well in the exam can boost confidence and reduce anxiety.

Healthy Distractions:

● Avoid distractions while studying such as using the phone but choosing short breaks in study sessions can result in refreshing your mind and focus.

Arrive Early and Prepared:

● On exam day, arrive at the test center early to avoid the last-minute rush. Ensure you have all the necessary materials and necessary documents.

Mindful Test-taking:

● Read all instructions carefully and be relaxed. Think wisely and allocate time to each section of the exam. If you get stuck somewhere, move to some other question so that you complete the paper on time.

Remember that some level of stress is normal but dont let it overwhelm you so much. Implement these strategies to be prepared and overcome challenges.


High school exam anxiety is a formidable challenge, but it's one that can be conquered. Being parents or teachers, we must accept its existence and should work collectively to provide the necessary support. We should ensure a nurturing learning environment where students feel free to discuss and share. Students should not be pressured instead they should be conveyed that they are not defined solely by grades, but by the personal growth, resilience and knowledge they have gained. 

As we are discussing this issue, let us ask questions ourselves: 

● How can we foster a more nurturing learning environment? 

● How can we equip our students with the tools to navigate stress and uncertainty? 

These questions can help us explore solutions that will not only alleviate exam anxiety but also empower our students to thrive academically and emotionally helping to leave a lasting impact on their educational journey and beyond.

How do I clear my mind before a test?

Clearing your mind before a test can be achieved through relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation mindfulness, and positive visualization. Preparing in advance for the exam also helps reduce anxiety.

Is it normal for a 14-year-old to be anxious?

Teenagers will experience anxiety or become anxious during exams which is normal. Adolescence is a period of significant change in the overall body and every student might have a different response to it. 

What is the difference between overthinking and anxiety?

Overthinking is a cognitive process of dwelling on a specific issue, while anxiety is a broader emotional state involving excessive worry, restlessness, and physical symptoms. Overthinking can be a component of anxiety but doesn't necessarily indicate an anxiety disorder.

What are the 6 main anxiety disorders?

The six anxiety disorders are:-

● Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

● Social Anxiety Disorder

● Panic Disorder

● Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

● Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

● and Specific Phobias. 

Each has distinct symptoms and characteristics.

Rekha Varghese

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