Dealing with Psychometric Test Performance Anxiety

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Author: Joshua Hancock
Updated: October 02, 2020

"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy"... This guide will help you understand exam stress and dealing with this unwanted anxiety

Why do we get anxious before a test?

Before we delve into the methods of dealing with anxiety before an exam, let's firstly understand what test performance anxiety is and why we get it.

Many of us have experienced nervousness and fear before partaking in some sort of activity in our life, as it's very natural to feel this way. There's nothing odd about feeling anxious in the face of something stressful, it's very common and most people feel it. However, for some people it's much more intense and can be debilitating to your performance.

Our body's natural reaction to a stressful situation is to release adrenaline. This prepares us for the fight or flight situation we are about to face. We encounter these situations regularly throughout our lives and some people will tend to stick and fight the situation and some may decide to not enter the situation and leave - either way our body was preparing us for either outcome, ensuring we are pumped and alert enough to react either way.

If it's natural why do some people feel it much more than others?

Well, there are other factors at play that vary the severity of your symptoms, which we'll talk through:

If the exam you're about to sit is very important it's likely you will feel greater anxiety - this is due to the effects that this test could have on your future life and ambitions. Job applicants can experience high anxiety sitting aptitude tests for an employer they wish to work for due to what's at stake - their desired career.

You may be someone who has a history of underperforming in tests and so you assume that what happened in the past will also happen in the future. You should try hard to remove this negative attitude; exposure to things you find difficult will help ease the difficulty of doing the same tasks in the future. The best way to get over public speaking is by doing lots of public speaking! It's the same with tests, the more you sit, the more comfortable you should feel in the environment and eventually you will be so un-phased by the situation that you can focus entirely on the task at hand.

This final reason ties into the previous one - if repeating the process of taking a test can make you feel less anxious, then practising the skills involved in the test material will alleviate some of the anxiety too. If you are prepared and have practised the skills involved thoroughly then there is much less reason to feel anxious due to your chances of scoring highly in the exam.

Coping with test anxiety

Now we understand the reasons why we feel anxious before an exam, let's go through the all important ways to deal with test anxiety, such as what to do before an exam:

  • Remain Positive: Once you're sitting the exam and a question comes up that you're not sure about, don't let this phase you. Don't fall back into thinking negatively and that maybe you're not clever enough after all. It's okay to be stumped by one or two questions, not everyone is expected to get full marks or else the test would be pointless. If you don't know the answer, don't worry and move on.
  • Be Prepared: You should ensure you have practised similar tests enough that you can confidently score in the highest percentiles. Once you can confidently answer questions you should feel comfortable in sitting the real exam - don't fall back into 'fear mode', think positively!
  • Deep and Slow Breathing: Deep breathing can help keep you calm, slow breathing can help prevent hyperventilation, monitor your breathing and act accordingly. Inhale through your nose whilst counting to 7 (doesn't have to be 7 seconds, you can count at any moderate rate), then exhale through your mouth whilst counting to 11. Keep repeating this and you should start to feel calmer - try it now!
  • Quiet Setting: When doing a test by email invitation, complete the test somewhere quiet. Distractions can hamper performance, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety. If you can control over your test surroundings then make the most of it!
  • Sleep: Get a good night’s sleep before the test (we're not suggesting sleeping during the exam!). Anxiety can keep you awake before a big test, ensure you go to bed early and do your best to be well rested, and ready for your exam. Don't take the test whilst tired if you can help it.

Round-up on dealing with performance anxiety and stress:

Performance anxiety and exam stress are notoriously associated with aptitude tests, and pre-test nervousness is common and frequent. An important thing to remember is that the right amount of performance anxiety and nervousness can be a help, not a hindrance.

Being moderately nervous can help sharpen your focus and keep you on your toes during your exam, preventing you getting distracted and optimising performance. However high-levels of anxiety can be an inhibitor of performance, causing you to second guess your answers, rush through or skip questions.

Now you have understood the causes of test performance anxiety and learnt about how to cope with such feelings, you should be ready to put the plan into action. If you have an upcoming exam you wish to practise for you can navigate our site to find useful information, tips and practise tests.

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