Exam Anxiety

Table of contents:

Exam Anxiety
Exam Anxiety
Video: Exam Anxiety
Video: How to Overcome Test Anxiety 2023, February

Exam anxiety

Many people feel excited before and during exams - these sensations are perfectly normal. Examination anxiety only becomes a problem when it significantly impairs performance - for example in the form of "blackouts" - and causes stress. Fear is a reaction to danger. It is a normal and important reaction in real dangerous situations - a warning sign that helps us to react appropriately. In contrast, anxiety disorders - the large area of ​​real unfounded fears that are based on irrational thoughts or regressive risk assessments. Anxiety disorders also include severe test anxiety.


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • causes
  • Symptoms
  • therapy
  • Helpful tips
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?


Basically, we do not experience situations as they are, but always conveyed through thoughts or cognitions. In other words, it is not situations in themselves that trigger fear, but rather the thoughts that we have about them. Severe exam anxiety is usually a mixture of real and neurotic anxiety.

  • Real fear can be based on exam requirements that are difficult to fulfill or not very transparent, the examiner's unpredictability, poor preparation, lack of time for the exam or the consequences of failure.
  • Neurotic components of test anxiety are related to fears that have arisen earlier, self-esteem problems and unresolved (unconscious) conflicts that can “hook up” before or during exams.

Most of the cognitive processes that trigger fear are not aware of them. Behind this are often psychological constellations of desire and defense, which can be assigned to typical phase-specific early childhood conflict situations. An exam situation that triggers more than the usual level of fear is based on regressive risk assessments, which students describe as “I somehow feel like a child towards the examiner”. Exam situations are particularly suitable for updating conflict constellations from childhood. As a result, the examinee is not only in the here and now of the real exam situation, but also unconsciously in a specific past situation.


Extremely pronounced exam anxiety increases the closer the exam day approaches. Learning can be massively impaired in the run-up to this, including problems with concentration. In the exam situation itself, mental blocks and blackouts can occur. The person concerned can no longer remember what he / she has learned comprehensively and precisely.

Accompanying physical complaints such as nervous restlessness, inner tension, racing heart, sweating, tremors, sleep disorders and paralyzing fatigue as well as eating disorders, stomach and intestinal problems can occur.

Some people do not feel their fear consciously, but rather feel depressed, insecure or generally threatened without being able to give a reason for it.


In many cases, exam anxiety is based on a lack of exam experience and a certain routine in dealing with such stressful situations. Regular confrontations with all kinds of exam situations and learning a structured preparation lead to more composure and confidence.

Therapy is called for when the exam situation becomes an exception requirement that is often avoided. The main thing is to deal with the causes of test anxiety - with the fear-inducing thoughts. Methods of so-called cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, are well suited to reduce fear of failure and build self-confidence. These include learning relaxation techniques, building self-confidence, mental training and mind control.

Further information can be found under Stress & Recovery and under Advice on the wire.

The cognitive-expressive test anxiety group (KEPAG) was developed in the psychological counseling center for students in Vienna. This procedure can reduce test anxiety in a relatively short time. The main idea is to recognize the irrational cognitions that underlie test anxiety. A resolution or reduction of fear can be achieved by recognizing the irrational cognitions, correcting them by checking against reality and practicing them mentally in this corrected, now realistic form. The aim is to replace the automated irrational thoughts with rational ones. In addition, an attempt is made to find out the unconscious conflictual scenes that trigger fear in the examination situation in a revealing process.

Helpful tips

The psychological student counseling at the Federal Ministry for Science, Research and Economy offers personal support (e.g. coaching, psychological counseling and therapy) and has put together tips for overcoming exam anxiety:

  • Improve learning technique: It is frightening if the examination material is not mastered sufficiently, especially if the overview is missing and the material cannot be reproduced freely enough. It reduces the fear of learning in time and in a targeted manner, correcting learning disorders, improving learning techniques or taking part in learning training.
  • Gaining clarity about the requirements: Information about exam questions, the form of the exam and the assessment criteria can help to unmask fear due to fantasized "requirements".
  • Make realistic demands on yourself: Avoiding “super performances” and claims to perfection can ease the tension considerably. On the other hand, it is helpful to remember previous successes, one's own abilities and strengths without false modesty.
  • Use the performance-enhancing effect of exam anxiety : Fear can be used constructively if it can be implemented as a motor for timely learning.
  • Put negative consequences into perspective: The consequences of a possible failure are often not nearly as serious as initially feared, and in reality "the world does not collapse".
  • Coping strategies for acute anxiety: During the exam it is important to have coping strategies against anxiety attacks available, eg:

    - “If I feel tremors, palpitations, a 'dumpling in my stomach'… I register this, breathe deeply and don't let myself out bring the version."

    -" When I'm blocked at the moment, I'm trying to gain time, while I ask the examiner for example, the examiner / to repeat the question."

    -" I can not answer a question, I focus all the more to the next question without indulging in my 'failure'. "

  • Practice the exam situation : expose yourself to as many exam-like situations as possible. A good option is to practice with a fellow student in a simulated exam situation or to ask yourself exam-like questions and answer them when repeating.
  • Mental coping training: The basic assumption of mental training for exam anxiety is: What succeeds in imagination can be more easily mastered in reality. Concrete procedure: concentrate on rest and relaxation in a quiet place and present the exam situation (room, examiner, audience, how I sit there, receive a question, think about it, answer, etc.). In this way you can gradually familiarize yourself with the exam situation. In a similar way you can adjust to the exam by repeating the day's material.
  • Changing inner attitudes: "Inner beliefs" have a very significant influence on a person, also in the exam situation. You can change the way you think about yourself by replacing negative self-statements with positive ones. For positive self-statements to be effective, they should be realistic and believable. Here are a few examples in which a negative statement is contrasted with a positive one.

    • "When fear overcomes me, it's all over." - "I don't let the fear irritate me, I can pass the exam despite fear."
    • "I won't make it anyway." - "I want to make it and I will do everything to pass the exam."
    • "I am perfectly prepared." - "I am well prepared and can build on my knowledge."
    • "I will not be afraid." - "Even if I am afraid, I will not be irritated by it."

Whom can I ask?

The following institutions offer support if you have severe test anxiety:

  • Resident specialist in psychiatry,
  • Cash outpatient clinic or hospital outpatient clinic for psychiatry,
  • Psychotherapist,
  • Doctor with advanced training in psychotherapeutic medicine
  • clinical psychologist.
  • Psychological student counseling at the Federal Ministry for Science, Research and Economy, www.studienberatung.at

You can first contact your general practitioner and use them to find specific points of contact.

How are the costs going to be covered?

When making use of psychotherapy, full cost coverage is possible in the health insurance institutions' own or contractually bound institutions, as well as in institutions that are subsidized by the public sector. In these cases, however, there is the option of paying a deductible.

Otherwise, you have the option of applying for a subsidy from the health insurance company if you are undergoing psychotherapy with a resident psychotherapist. If this is approved, the health insurance provider will reimburse you for part of the fee paid to the psychotherapist. However, the health insurance carriers only provide a subsidy if there is a so-called disease-related disorder. You can find out more about reimbursement on the website of the social security agency.

Clinical-psychological diagnosis is a service provided by social health insurance, the costs of which are borne by the health insurance providers. You have to bear the costs for treatment or advice from resident clinical psychologists, as this is not a benefit from health insurance. For more information about visiting a doctor, see Costs and Deductibles.

You can find further information on "Psychotherapy on sickness certificate", cost subsidies and addresses of resident psychotherapists under Services.

Popular by topic