Anxiety is created by expectations or thoughts about what is likely to happen. If you think negative things to yourself about your abilities, you produce a corresponding negative emotional reaction: anxiety. If you believe you are not smart, you don't know the information well enough, or you aren't capable of performing well on exams, then your expectations will be for failure. Negative expectations then create anxiety, and anxiety can disable you from actually doing well. Therefore, if you believe in yourself and your abilities and have positive expectations for how you will perform on the exam, you will be better able to cope with the anxiety (a small amount of anxiety can be helpful for performing well.).
Students may blame poor exam performance on test anxiety. This poor performance may actually be a lack of preparedness for a test (which causes anxiety), rather than classic test anxiety. Be well prepared. If your anxiety is a direct result of lack of preparation, consider anxiety a normal, rational reaction. Lack of preparation is indicated by the following:
- Cramming the night before the exam
- Poor time management
- Failure to organize course information
- Poor study habits
- Worrying about past performance on exams and how friends and other students are doing in comparison to yourself
However, if you are adequately prepared but still panic, "blank out," and/or overreact, your reaction is not rational. In either case, it is helpful to know how to overcome the effects of test anxiety.