Academic Anxiety: Defining Anxiety
What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
Stress can come from a variety of sources and does not seem to impact everyone in the same way. What is stressful to one person may not cause stress for another. Anxiety is more serious than stress because it adds a feeling of fear, and people cannot always pinpoint the cause of the anxiety. Anxiety happens when people do not trust their ability to cope with the situation that causes them stress. When stress becomes anxiety academic performance suffers. For example, a person might freeze up while taking an exam, even though he or she knows the material.
We will address four different types of academic anxiety here: general test anxiety, mathematics anxiety, writing anxiety, and public speaking anxiety.
Academic Anxiety: General Test Anxiety
What causes general test anxiety?
When students have general test anxiety, they are anxious in any testing situation-math, history, English literature-you name it. Students who are test anxious may have sweaty palms, an upset stomach, not be able to think clearly, and have a lack of confidence in themselves as learners.
Causes of Test Anxiety
- A history of struggling on exams, which continues in college. Perhaps you didn’t know how to study, or you didn’t study enough, and took tests when you were unprepared.
- A lack of the confidence you need to be successful. Students who doubt themselves even when they put effective time and energy into studying often engage in negative self-talk, which can lead to anxiety.
- Competition with a brother, sister, or peer, or being afraid about disappointing your family. Thinking thoughts such as, “I will never be able to measure up to how my brother did in college,” can cause you to feel anxious every time you walk into a test situation.
How to Cope with Test Anxiety
Try these strategies to help you cope with your anxiety.
- Be prepared. In fact, be over prepared. Start your studying early so that if you don’t understand something, you have time to research the concept further.
- Know what’s expected of you. Find out as much about the test as possible, so that you can study using the best strategies.
- Try out some practice questions. The more you can practice with the material, the better you will feel about taking the exam.
- Relax to clear your mind. When you get to your classroom on the day of the test, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and talk positively to yourself.
- Have a plan. Remember, you don’t have to start on the first question and move through the test until the last one. Skim the test to find questions that you can answer easily.
- ” Get help. Test anxiety can be controlled. If you can’t get your anxiety under control on your own, seek help from a counselor on your campus.
Academic Anxiety: Mathematics Anxiety
What causes Math anxiety?
For most students, math anxiety is based on past experiences in math classes. Most students can almost pinpoint when they became anxious about math (Was it a concept that you just couldn’t grasp? A math teacher that you just couldn’t understand?). Because of those experiences, they consider themselves to be “mathematically challenged” and try to avoid math at all costs.
How to Cope with Mathematics Anxiety
If you have math anxiety, try the following strategies:
- Start at the proper level. If you are required to take placement tests and these tests show that you may need a refresher course in math, heed this advice. Nothing causes more anxiety than being at a level of math for which you are not ready.
- Practice, practice, practice. Spend some time on math every day. Reread your math textbook, work problems, and be sure you understand what you are doing (don’t just plug in numbers).
- Work with a tutor on a regular basis. Seek out help from your campus learning center or tutorial program. Plan to meet with your tutor on a regular basis (at least once a week) to go over homework and discuss what you don’t understand. By all means do not wait until you are completely lost to get help.
Academic Anxiety: Writing Anxiety
Causes of Writing Anxiety
Some students become anxious any time they have to write. It may be an essay for a history test, a paper for composition, or a research paper for psychology-anything that involves having to put thoughts and ideas on paper in an organized fashion. Like math anxiety, writing anxiety usually stems from having negative experiences related to writing. Maybe you have trouble coming up with an idea and formulating a thesis. Or maybe you have good ideas but get anxious and frustrated when you try to organize them into a well thought-out essay or paper.
How to Cope with Writing Anxiety
If you have writing anxiety, try the following strategies:
- Have a plan. Whether it’s writing an essay, a paper for English, or a research paper, take time to plan.
- Write often. This sounds like a poor piece of advice for students who have writing anxiety, but writing more will make you feel more confident in yourself, which in turn can reduce your anxiety. Try keeping a journal about interesting things you see or hear, your feelings, or your pet-anything that you can write about on a regular basis.
- Start early. Because students with writing anxiety try to avoid writing, they often put off writing assignments until the last minute and then become even more anxious. Work on your writing assignment a little at a time.