Exam anxiety


An unmanageable fear that is triggered by exam situations or circumstances that are perceived as an exam is called exam anxiety.

She can get through previous bad experiences (if you e.g. has already failed an exam), Fears from narratives other people (if you e.g. hears that it is impossible to pass this examiner) or by a low self esteem (the feeling of not being able to do anything) to be triggered.


The test anxiety usually involves emotional tension and physical discomfort.

Exam anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. Basically there is one mental tension and physical malaise.

The mental health is shaped by the Sensation of fear and insecurity. May occur:

  • Irritability,
  • Displeasure,
  • Mood swings,
  • Discouragement,
  • depressions,
  • Anger.

Physical complaints can be:

  • inner restlessness,
  • sleep disorders,
  • a headache,
  • Languor,
  • Loss of appetite or food cravings.

The ability to pay attention and concentrate is reduced and it comes to Mental blocks, Self-doubt and the Retention goes down.

In the exam situation or shortly before, the inner tension becomes so great that it leads to a Panic attack can come.
The symptoms are one typical fear response:

  • Racing heart,
  • Lump feeling in the throat,
  • Sweating,
  • Blush,
  • Tremors in the hands.

This condition is generally also called "Black out”, Or state of complete shutdown of the brain, designated.

However, it's worth noting that not all people experience test anxiety the same way. Nobody experiences exactly the same symptoms and the time course can be different.

For some, the voltage rises continuously until the actual test, while others can even be relaxed at times.

Sometimes the panic episodes occur too only after completion of the exam if you have actually already passed it. Nevertheless, they are frightening and stressful.

root cause

Fear responses are part of ours innate behaviorthat can give us a survival advantage.
E.g. we are afraid of predators as they can be a danger to our lives. A certain fear is therefore healthy.

Only when this fear paralyzes us and affects us in our life and work does it become a disease.

Exam anxiety can also be healthy as it motivates us to learn and to prepare us well for an exam.

However, if you start to evaluate the exam situation in overdoing it in a negative way, that is to say, evaluates her to the effect that she "life and death”That fear can become a disease.

An important aspect in the development of test anxiety is the so-called Self-attribution. This means that you ascribe certain characteristics and properties to yourself, but they do not necessarily have to correspond to reality.
So you can be firmly convinced that the exam turned out to be a disaster because you didn't prepare yourself well enough or you are to blame in some other way.

Other factors such as the mood of the examiner, the length of the exam, the level of difficulty etc. are not taken into account.

The feeling of being solely responsible for the stressful situation leads to Uncertaintiesfrom which the fear of generally failing exams can arise.

This negative thoughts and anxious attitudes are crucial for the development of test anxiety. Not only can they become a mental burden, they also take up a large part of our attention and time, which is then not available for exam preparation.

If you generally rate an exam situation in a negative sense, and therefore fear (without this fear being justified rationally), the body also reacts negatively to the tension and the symptoms mentioned above occur.

This fear can very quickly turn into one Vicious circle lead: one is afraid of not passing an exam because of the fear associated with it Difficulty concentrating and motivating do not prepare well and experience the exam situation as stressful and the result as unsatisfactory.

This in turn is ascribed to oneself and also develops a fear of the fear that negatively influences the examination and examination preparation.

Another factor that should not be underestimated in the development of test anxiety is parental upbringing and care in the childhood.
Children of parents who pay little attention to the emotional needs of their children, on the contrary, for whom the communication of rules and social norms is more important, are more likely to develop test anxiety.

It is often the case that the parents Underestimate the needs of children and at the same time overestimate their abilities.
The children learn that good behavior is rewarded and fear the rejection by their parents if they make a mistake.
This easily carries over to other situations where an assessment (by the environment, the employer, etc.) takes place and in particular exam situations.

Even if you are not responsible for the failure of the exam, write it to yourself and the cycle described above will result.

Children who rely on the support of their parents regardless of the situation and who are allowed to try things out in their childhood are more confident and less prone to developing test anxiety.

In particular between 20 to 30 years, of the Transitional period between childhood / puberty and adulthood, many are prone to developing test anxiety due to the tremendous stress they may experience from studying or training.

The demands that are placed on the person who is perceived as grown up and responsible for themselves, collide with the inner maturation process and the feeling of not being able to fulfill the role as an adult.


Exam anxiety is not a disease to be taken lightly psychological strategies but can be helped well.

The therapy should work on Assess situations as objectively as possible and not to slide into destructive thought patterns that destroy the mood and self-confidence and thus also the physical well-being through their negative orientation.

It is important to take into account the negative thoughts that dominate the fear of the exam positive thoughts to meet. Thoughts and fantasies are important and helpful and can help overcome exam anxiety.

Simple strategies that are supposed to create a connection between thinking and feeling include the so-called "ABC of feelings”.
The first step is to deal with the very stressful situation to describe as unaffected by feelings as possible.

The next step is about your own thoughts, expectations and attitudes.

In a final step, feelings and behavior patterns should be carefully examined.

This detailed analysis of the situation can help Disclose behavior patterns and ways of thinkingthat have a negative effect on self-esteem and work specifically on it.

Other approaches are Behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy or hypnosis.

Behavioral therapy assumes that every behavior and every experience trained and therefore again learnable is.
In the sessions, the harmful behaviors are tackled and targeted in an environment favorable to learning replaced by other behaviors.
The stress increases as long as the frightening situation, in this case the exam, can be endured.

Psychodynamic therapy goes on that psychoanalytic theory of Freud back. It is assumed that there are several conflicting people in one person Wishes and motivations gives.
The inner conflicts that arise in the process look for themselves Valve outward.

The behaviors expressed are often perceived as harmful and unwanted. The underlying problem, the internal conflict, is ignored.

The psychoanalytic approach now tries to process and resolve these basic problems. In this sense, it is more thorough than the other forms of therapy, since it not only reflects the harmful behavior but also it root cause processed, but also takes longer.
This form of therapy should therefore not be chosen shortly before an examination.

Hypnosis is a consciously initiated, deep state of relaxation.
If this is used therapeutically, one speaks of Hypnotherapy.

In hypnosis, test situations are lived through, but they are positive. This thought play can be called a positive experience are recovered and strengthens self-confidence.
In this way positive thoughts can be trained. They can also be in a hypnosis unconscious motivations and conflicts clarified and processed in the further course.


Since many different factors influence each other and influence the course of the disease, there is one clear diagnosis not easy to meet.

Especially in childhood and adolescence, it can be hidden or not recognized Attention and concentration disorder with a Exam anxiety be confused.

A is important for the diagnosis detailed conversation with those affected and the evaluation using scientifically based questionnaires and criteria provided.


The decisive factor in predicting test anxiety is the power of thoughts on our body.

In order to visualize this, one can carry out the following self-experiment:
You close your eyes and think of your favorite food. You try to remember your favorite food exactly and to visualize it in as much detail as possible.
In the end, you should have noticed that the saliva has flowed into your mouth and your stomach may even growl. And only because you imagined something.

Likewise, negative thoughts that trigger test anxiety affect the body.

To the same extent, positive thoughts can also help overcome fear. Therefore, the prognosis of test anxiety is generally favorable.

However, it also plays a role to what extent other psychologically conspicuous factors are connected to the test anxiety and how severe the degree of test anxiety is.

Since exam anxiety can also trigger depression, it should not be underestimated. The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to overcome your fear.

For information on the Stages of puberty click here.


Good preventive measures are courses on:

  • Time management,
  • efficient work,
  • Rhetoric,
  • Confidence training.

There you can acquire the appropriate skills to prepare yourself as best as possible for an exam and to look good in the exam yourself.
This can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing test anxiety.

If you have had bad experiences in an exam situation, it is important to work through them. It is important to do this with a trusted person to do or yourself professional help to search.

An attempt should be made to break the cycle of Fear response, to fail and Self-attribution stop as early as possible.

If it becomes apparent in preparation for the exam that you are having trouble working on and learning the topics because of fear, then a critical point has been exceeded and you should seek help.

Exam sickness is by no means something to be ashamed of; instead, one should be on one's own Meet needs and yourself advise and help as early as possible to let.