OPINION: Test anxiety has the ability to help your score



“Exam” by Alberto G. on Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) No changes were made to the original image. Use of the image does not indicate photographer endorsement of the article.

EP Presnell

As the end of the second semester nears and students start to make summer plans with their family and friends, they also enter one of the most stressful times of the year: testing season. Starting with ACT testing and continuing through AP testing weeks, KPREP and finals, it is easy to get stressed out about the test before and during the test. While test anxiety may seem like a completely negative concept, there are some helpful aspects to test anxiety that may actually help while taking a test rather than hurt the final score.

From the beginning

It is easy to slack off knowing summer break is near. However, this can make one vulnerable to test anxiety. The fear of knowing multiple tests are coming up can be overwhelming and cause hesitation in study patterns because your brain is attempting to focus on too many things at once. The best way to handle this anxiety is to break up the studying and work, but it can still leave you with anxiety which can be completely normal. This anxiety can also be distracting, but it also has the ability to push you into studying more.

The fear of failure is shared among many students, which is a common root of anxiety for many students. If that anxiety helps motivate you to study more, that fear could potentially go down and allow you to work more efficiently, thus making you more prepared.

It’s all about time

Anxiety’s whole purpose is to make your body prepared for whatever is causing you fear, no matter how big or small the threat may be. Anxiety triggers a rush of adrenalin to the brain and triggers these reactions to put your body into a “fight-or-flight” response, despite not being in a life threatening situation. The adrenalin makes you work quicker to get out of the situation causing this change.


Timed tests like the ACT or AP tests can cause extreme stress when told you only have anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute per question with reading and solving problems fitting into that time slot. On some of the AP tests, students are only provided with one minute per question and have 40 minutes to write a full essay which does not seem like hardly enough time if you want to create a well thought response which means speed is key. With the help of anxiety, you can actually go quicker and complete more answers while reading.

The more time you save for the end of the test, the more you have to go back and look over your answers. A common misconception about multiple choice tests is “to go with your gut” as many teachers and study preps say, but studies show that students who change their answers are more likely to get the answer right. Three professors, Ludy T. Benjamin, Timothy A. Cavell and William R. Shallenberger, conducted a study on changing choices on multiple choice tests and found that 57.8% of the changed answers went from wrong to right while only 20.2% went from right to wrong. If possible, the best thing to do is save some time for the end of the test to review your answers, and if test anxiety helps you go through the test quicker, it may save you some points.

Obviously test anxiety isn not always beneficial. Test anxiety, as many forms of anxiety do, come in varying levels of severeness and can actually be much more harmful than helpful to some students. People who consider themselves perfectionists or worry about tests without preparing for them are much more likely to experience symptoms of test anxiety like head and stomach aches beyond the typical “butterflies in your stomach” feeling many experience. In addition, people who know they have more tests coming up are likely to fall victim to this. Juniors face a hard year with ACT, KPREP, AP and finals within one two month period, but with careful planning anxiety can be minimized and utilized.


The best things to do during this time is to work your hardest at minimizing the anxiety you feel, but do not worry if you have some left over. If you find yourself taking a test and it becomes too much, take a moment to breathe and then continue along the test at a decent speed. It may allow you to go through the test quicker and more efficiently than if you hadn’t had that little extra push.

“Exam” by Alberto G. on Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) No changes were made to the original image. Use of the image does not indicate photographer endorsement of the article.