test anxiety

Effective Therapies for Test Anxiety

August 18, 2023

As summer surrenders to autumn and the new school year beckons, many students feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. For some, this unease centers on one specific concern – test anxiety. At The Forum, we believe understanding the root of this anxiety and implementing effective therapeutic strategies can make all the difference.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety students experience in academic settings, typically before or during exams. Its characteristics include intense feelings of distress or fear of failing, even if the student is well-prepared.

The warning signs of test anxiety include the following.

  • Physical symptoms: Nausea, headaches, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, lightheadedness and even fainting.
  • Emotional symptoms: Feelings of anger, disappointment, helplessness and fear of failure.
  • Behavioral symptoms: Avoiding studying or claiming to be sick on test day, negative self-talk or excessive worry about the exam.
  • Cognitive symptoms: Blank mind, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating or self-doubt during the test.

Strategies and Therapies for Overcoming Test Anxiety

A little nervousness before a test is normal and can help your child focus on the task at hand. But if your child struggles with test anxiety, the physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive symptoms can interfere with their academic performance and make them miserable. 

  1. Preparation is key: The best defense against test anxiety is thorough preparation. Encourage your child to develop effective study habits and stick to a routine.
  2. Mindfulness: Mindfulness exercises like deep breathing can help anxious students find focus. Teach your child to take deep breaths, inhaling through their nose into their belly, and holding for a slow count of four.
  3. Positive affirmations: Reinforce self-confidence through positive self-talk. Encourage your child to say phrases like “I am ready” or “I can handle this.”
  4. Seek support: Sometimes, talking through their fears and anxieties can be incredibly therapeutic for students. Encourage open communication.
  5. Visualization techniques: Have your child imagine themselves taking the test in detail, including passing with flying colors.
  6. Professional therapy: If test anxiety is severely affecting your child’s grades and well-being, consider seeing a counselor. At The Forum, we offer family therapy for teens and their parents to get on a healthy track.
  7. Practice under test conditions: Simulate exam conditions at home to help your child get more comfortable with their test-taking skills.
  8. Stay physically active: Exercise can reduce anxiety and increase focus and energy levels.
  9. Healthy sleep and diet: Ensure your child gets plenty of restful sleep and eats a balanced diet, especially in the days leading up to the exam.

Rising Above the Challenge of Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is prevalent among teens, but with your unwavering support, your child can overcome it and thrive academically in this new school year. At The Forum, we are passionate about helping teens with mental health challenges. If your child is having a hard time, don’t hesitate to reach out.

In some cases, test anxiety might result from an undiagnosed learning disorder like dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia. Our neuropsychologist can interview your child and assess their language, memory, attention, concentration and learning strengths or weaknesses. These tests provide an accurate diagnosis that allows us to create a tailored treatment plan for your teenager’s specific needs.