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It’s normal for both adults and children to feel nervous once in a while. A little anxiety prior to an event like a presentation or test is common – and normal.
“For some, a little nervousness can actually be helpful,” says Dr. Tina Ardon, a Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist. “But, for others, they struggle a bit more with what we call 'test anxiety.'”
Test anxiety can affect anyone from primary and secondary school students to college students.
While symptoms are varied, and can include trouble concentrating and sleeping the night before a test, Dr. Ardon says some individuals struggle significantly. Some even experience physical symptoms.
“There are people who have trouble focusing during a test but others who experience trouble breathing, stomachache, headache, elevated heartrate,” she says.
The challenge for many parents, especially of younger children, is confirming whether a complaint of headache, stomachache and other ailment is related to an actual illness or anxiety.
“For younger students, it may be hard to determine if they are struggling due to test anxiety or other issues. I always suggest parents talk to their child first,” she says.
Dr. Ardon also advises reaching out to your child’s teacher. “It’s helpful to get insight into what they see in the classroom, if the student is having trouble taking tests in the moment,” she says.
Watch: Dr. Tina Ardon offers tips about test anxiety.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Ardon are in the downloads.
Dr. Ardon offers these tips for helping to prepare children for tests and alleviate mild test anxiety:
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