Center for Young Women's Health

Test Anxiety



  • Test anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as: fast heartbeat, headaches, and stomach aches.
  • Feeling anxious because you didn't study is not the same thing.
  • Relaxation techniques are helpful in controlling test anxiety.

Feeling stressed out or nervous before a test is normal. In fact, some stress helps to motivate people to study, but if you get so stressed out that you're unable to stay focused enough to answer test questions, it's a problem.


What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is a feeling of tension or pressure before a test. For example, you might feel nervous right before or during a test even though you've studied for it. You may feel so anxious that you have physical symptoms such as: nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), a headache, and feeling like your heart is pounding, and/or sweat a lot. These feelings can be mild to strong.


Test anxiety is not the same thing as flunking a test because you didn't study for it or because your mind was on something else, such as a breakup with your partner. Test anxiety is more about not being able to concentrate on the test because you're nervous and/or stressed about taking the test itself. The feelings that go with test anxiety are very real, and can get in the way of getting good grades.


What causes test anxiety?

Test anxiety is caused by being super stressed out about taking a test. It's also caused by thinking about all of the negative things that could happen - such as forgetting how to answer questions, not knowing the answers, failing, etc.


Who is at risk for getting test anxiety?

Anyone at any age can get test anxiety. However, people who tend to worry a lot get stressed out easily, and those who want to get "perfect" grades are usually at a higher risk.


How can I prevent getting test anxiety?

Test anxiety is caused by being stressed out and thinking that negative things are going to happen. Studies have found that stress management techniques such as deep breathing meditation (DBM) can be helpful especially for students with test anxiety.


More ways to lessen test anxiety:

If you feel like your test taking methods aren't working, talk with your teacher/professor and ask for suggestions.


Written by the CYWH and YMH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 3/10/2014


Related Guides:

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises can be used when you feel stressed, anxious, or you're in any situation where you need to slow down and feel in control. For example: if you're anxious before a test at school...



You know when you're stressed out - your body feels tired and your thoughts are spinning. It can also help to know why your body reacts that way, and what you can do about it...

Search Our Site
Center for Young Women's Health Center for Young Women's Health Boston Children's Hospital Boston Children's Hospital
Photo of Peer Leaders Meet Our Peers
15 Years!