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Causes of Test Anxiety

In addition to lack of preparation, some of the major causes of test anxiety include:

expectations or pressure from others “I'll lose my scholarship.” “I can't let my parents down.” “I must have a 3.8 g.p.a. to get into graduate school.”
past experience with tests “I never do well no matter how much I study.” “I've flunked other tests.” “I'm lousy at essay exams.”
fear of failing “If I don't do well, I'll flunk the course, not get into my major, not graduate from college, never get a good job…”


Tests and grades are challenging realities for college students. It is important to do well to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. However, it is important to understand that it is not the test situations themselves that create anxiety. It is how you interpret what tests mean that create your anxiety. Students often interpret test situations in extreme or negative ways, which increases their anxiety and results in poor test performance.

You can manage test anxiety using a variety of stress management techniques. Click on Techniques for Managing Test Anxiety to learn and practice these techniques.