Overcoming Test Anxiety With REBT
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Subjects Overcoming Test Anxiety With REBT

Tests play an important role in our society. They help determine whether or not you will get a driver's license, a job placement or promotion, entrance to college or university, etc. The consequences of tests are so important, that it's in your interests to do your best on them. But it's almost impossible to perform at your peak if you suffer from test anxiety.

Before discussing how to reduce your test anxiety, it might be a worthwhile project to see if you can determine why you feel so anxious. There are a number of factors involved in test anxiety. See if you can pick one or more reasons from the following list that might apply to you.

  • Fear of failure. Fear of failure comes from telling yourself that you must pass the exam, and that failing is unbearable.
  • Self-downing. Self-downers equate their exam results with their worth as a human being. If they do well, they can esteem themselves, but if they do poorly, they routinely condemn themselves.
  • Perfectionism. If you have set yourself overly high standards, then you'll be dissatisfied with anything less than the target you have set yourself, rather than the pass-target set by your instructor.
  • Need for approval. You assume that if you get a good grade, others will look up to you, but if you get a poor grade, they'll look down on you. If you tell yourself that you need their approval, then you'll make yourself anxious at the possibility that you'll do poorly.
  • Fear of anxiety. You know from past experience that you feel anxious during exams and, naturally, you don't like that feeling. But you go further and tell yourself that you can't stand the feeling, and thereby make yourself doubly anxious because you're afraid of the bad feelings you get during exams.

According to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) theory, your anxiety is not created by the tests or exams, it is created by the beliefs that you have about the exam.

To overcome your test anxiety, you must first recognize that it's not the tests that make you anxious, it's what you tell yourself about them. From the list of causes above, you'll see that each of them involves messages that you give yourself. To get rid of the bad feelings, you must change the things that you say to yourself.

The most effective change you can make is to tell yourself that you'd like to pass the exam, but you don't have to pass it. By demanding that you pass, you make yourself anxious. Giving yourself permission to perform poorly (while working hard and studying hard to avoid that outcome) is the best way to overcome test anxiety. Tell yourself : I'm going to work hard and do my best to pass the exam, but if I fail, I fail. Too bad!

Convince yourself that your worth as a human being is not being tested. Failing the exam does not make you a failure as a human. It merely means that you didn't pass the exam this time. Unfortunate, but not the end of the world!

Set lower standards for yourself. Learn to settle for a passing grade rather than an A.

Think carefully about the following questions before answering each of them truthfully:

  • Do I absolutely need to pass the exam? Will I literally die if I fail?
  • Is it the end of the world if I fail?
  • Does passing the exam make me a better human being than someone who fails?
  • Does failing the exam make me a lesser human than someone who passes?
  • If I pass and people look up to me, what does that tell me about them? What does it tell me about me?
  • If I fail and people look down on me, what does that tell me about them? What does it tell me about me?

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