Managing Test Anxiety

February 10, 2022
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Test anxiety refers to the negative stress that is experience learners preparing for and undertaking educational assessments. According to Ofqual (2020), negative physical and emotional responses to assessments can include symptoms such as rapid heart rate and breathing, and worry about underperforming.

Teachers know that exams and revision can be major sources of concern for some learners. A small number of learners per class are likely to be highly test anxious; believing that they are not academic competent. In contrast, learners without test anxiety may strongly believe they can overcome academic pressures, which actually motivates their exam performance. Overall, research has shown that high levels of test anxiety are generally associated with small reductions in exam performance. This has further implications for learners entering subsequent education and employment, as well as negative impact on mental health.

Developing a greater awareness about the causes and nature of test anxiety is known as ‘psychoeducation’. Research points to key factors which can increase or decrease test anxiety. For example, encouraging positive beliefs about academic ability and coping mechanisms can help reduce learners’ test anxiety. However, overemphasis on the consequences of failure can increase test anxiety.

Teachers, family and peers can help reduce test anxiety by instead focusing on reasonable expectations for achievement. Other ways teaching staff can engage in psychoeducation to reduce test anxiety for learners include:

·        Talking to learners about the causes and symptoms of test anxiety

·        Building revision and exam skills to increase preparedness

·        Challenging negative thoughts about the assessment

·        Encouraging relaxation strategies and mindfulness


Source: Ofqual (2020) A review of the literature concerning anxiety for educational assessments. Accessed at:

Further reading:


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