person taking exam studying test anxiety exam anxiety

Test anxiety

It is quite normal to feel a bit nervous before and during taking a test or exam. However, some of us experience an extreme anxiety or stress, for some even resulting in a panic attack, which of course has a negative impact on performance. This condition is referred to as exam fear or test anxiety and is a form of performance anxiety.




The symptoms of test anxiety are manifold and vary from person to person. There are:

  • Physical symptoms (such as rapid heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, excessive sweating, lightheadedness)
  • Behavioral and cognitive symptoms (such as negative self-talk, inability to concentrate and focus, inability to remember)
  • Emotional symptoms (such as feelings of fear, failure, inadequacy, helplessness, hopelessness, low self-esteem)

Whilst these symptoms can be rather debilitating the good news is that they can be reduced significantly so that they can work in our favor rather than against us. In fact, a certain level of arousal has a proven positive effect on our test and exam performance (Yerkes Dodson Law). And this is where we want to get to.


There are numerous causes of test anxiety and often it is a combination of various factors:

  • Being unprepared
  • The fear of failure and a history of past failures
  • High pressure from our environment to perform well (such as family, teachers, classmates)
  • Perfectionist character traits which results in being over-critical with your own performance
Woman with books test anxiety
  • Negative subconscious beliefs such as being told off by a teacher, sibling or parent “You are stupid!”, “Why can’t you do like your brother?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Why do you always get it wrong?”. Particularly, for children such statements can have a major impact as their minds take everything in like a sponge. As they grow up such beliefs often persist, become unconscious and are therefore difficult to recognize. They can be a major cause of test anxiety.

Would you like to do something about your or your child's test anxiety? Contact me for a free discovery call.


So, what can you do to get rid of your test anxiety? Actually, there are many things you can do.

  • Believe you can do it. Already Henry Ford said: ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.’
  • Prepare well for your exam. And I mean not just preparing a little bit, no really do the best you can do. Do what it takes so that you can walk into the exam room feeling that you have done your best. And that is not your classmates’ best, no it is your best.
Success test anxiety
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember you are unique. Take pride in that.
  • Don’t be critical with yourself. Instead praise yourself and believe in yourself.
  • Ignore any previous negative exam experiences. The past is not you. It is the past. You live in the present and that is what counts.
  • Be there on time as you don’t want to add stress due to being late.
  • Have a good night sleep before and eat healthy, making sure your body gets all the nourishment it needs.
  • Ban negative thoughts from your mind. This is easier than you think. Just think of a good mantra you can use in advance, such as “I am well prepared. I know I can do it!“, "My mind is a super-computer. It remembers everything.” “I have amazing memory, focus and concentration!” So, every time a negative thought enters your mind, silently say your mantra and let your mind get to work. Relax and trust it. It really works!
  • Take deep breaths in and out your nose, making sure your body has enough oxygen to function well.
  • Do imagery exercises the days leading up to the exam. Envision the exam situation and how well you are doing. Imagine everything in great detail, how you walk into the room, how you read and understand the questions, how you answer each one of them calmly and without a fail. See with your mind's eye how proud you are to experience an exam being so focused and concentrated. Also imagine getting your results and praise for them, how proud you are passing the exam with flying grades. This might seem a silly thing for you but for your brain it is not silly at all. By comparison just think of a nightmare. You wake up sweating with a rapid heartbeat, but you are still in bed in the safety of your own home. Just the pictures in your dream could cause such an extreme and real bodily reaction. Now use this power of your mind in your favor to create the right suggestions, positive ones, to ace exams going forward.


A hypnotherapy session with the Rapid Transformational Therapy™ (RTT™) can also be a very effective tool to eliminate test anxiety and fear of exams, particularly as it works with the subconscious mind and can access areas which are consciously not accessible. RTT™ can help in two ways:

First of all, it can expose and release any negative subconscious beliefs you might hold in relation to exam and test situations. Recognizing and understanding these beliefs is a first step to release them. During our session you realize and internalize that you are not the opinion of your teacher, parent or sibling. In fact, the most important opinion you will ever hear about yourself is your own. This brings us to the second benefit of an RTT™ session.

An RTT™ session can give your mind positive suggestions, overwriting old negative beliefs. RTT™ uses powerful emotional language which will have a lasting positive and empowering impact on your mind.

Would you like to do something about your or your child's test anxiety? Contact me for a free discovery calL.

balloons in the air lightness test anxiety