Exam Phobia - Causes, symptoms and remedies

How long will the feeling of examination phobia fluster students? Know the causes and symptoms and take appropriate measures to overcome the fear of examinations..

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 28 Jan 2023, 2:46 pm

(File Photo: IFP)
(File Photo: IFP)


We often come across the terms “examination fever” or “examination phobia”, which is described as fear of exams experienced by students ahead of their examinations. It is almost a ritual for students to experience this heart-wrenching feeling as the exam window narrows. The fear of the unknown dawns and engulfs all students. However, how long will this feeling flustered your academic life? Now is the time to take appropriate measures.

A phobia is explained as an intense fear of something that may or may not possess any actual threat in reality. Everyone experiences some kind of anxiety or phobia from time to time which results from a situation that we perceive as threatening, such as having to do an oral presentation, having a near-miss with a car, or waiting for the results of a lab test. A phobia may turn you down and at times may become your greatest enemy or hurdle in your life. Examination phobia among students can be a great hurdle for their academic success. 

Students become extremely worried about how they will revise and perform in their papers. It has been often observed among the students that suddenly something feels wrong; they feel like they might be losing control. You feel physical symptoms that mimic serious health problems and in some cases, you feel as if death or doom is imminent.

Causes of exam phobia

Scientifically, examination phobia is a result of anxiety and is often termed as test anxiety. Test anxiety is a type of anxiety that can affect a test taker before, during, or after a test. It is an issue that many students deal with at one time or another and at times can hamper their performance badly.

A lot of people think that the cause of examination fever is an inadequate preparation for the test that makes students sick fearing bad results, which is not true. Exam anxiety can be caused due to under-preparedness as well as over-preparedness also. Test anxiety can also be experienced at varying levels and may range from slight exam stress that can help you by providing alertness, readiness, and help you to concentrate. However, excessive exam anxiety can result in stress and negatively affect performance and can also lead to forgetfulness or dizziness.

It has been observed that children attend classes regularly, completed homework, and studied regularly. He or she arrives at the exam confident about the material, but is not able to perform well owing to test anxiety. If students develop test anxiety, a type of performance anxiety, taking the test becomes really difficult for them. Fear of failure, lack of preparation or over preparation and lack of experience in handling high-pressure situations. Everyone feels somewhat anxious before they begin to take a test which is a normal part of life. Anxiety often serves as a good form of adrenaline. However, in a few people this adrenaline rush exceeds normal limits and at times may lead to some negative consequences. Anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with a student's ability to think logically or remember facts. 

Symptoms of test anxiety


Physical symptoms of real test anxiety include tense muscles, sweaty palms, pounding heart, and feeling faint or nauseous. Cognitive symptoms include inability to remember simple things, illogical thinking, and mental blocks. However, it is very important that if a student faces anxiety that causes some physical imbalance or hampers his performance then one must consult a doctor.

If you are suffering from any kind of phobia, you'll often experience a host of physical and mental symptoms that can leave you severely frightened and incredibly drained once they pass. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles.

However, we can develop phobias of virtually anything. A headache, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint can all occur. Phobias can lead to a panic attack, which is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.

Most phobias develop in childhood, but it is also possible that these can also develop in adults too. In phobia even if you realize that your fear is unreasonable then also you can’t do anything about it and can’t control your feelings, whenever you’re actually exposed to the thing you fear, the terror is automatic and overwhelming.

Why do some people experience anxiety disorders?

Since long ago research has been conducted about anxiety and its effect, but still, researchers don't know exactly why some people experience anxiety disorders, they do know that there are various factors involved. Like many other mental health conditions, anxiety disorders seem to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and other individual factors. Anxiety has often been linked to stressful situations leading to an adrenaline rush.

Tension or fear is not the only reason for the anxiety; however, excitement can also be a reason for anxiety. How we think and react to certain situations can affect anxiety to a great extent.

Psychologists believe that we can deal with anxiety to a great extent by the way we actually take up an event. Some people may perceive certain situations to be more dangerous than they actually are e.g., fear of flying or swimming and most of the time end up developing a phobia.

It is also evident that at times people may have had a bad experience with a particular thing and they fear this will happen again to them. Some psychologists believe that childhood experiences can also contribute towards anxiety to a great extent.

A lot of people think that examination phobia is the result of under-preparation for a test or an examination and fear of flunking the exam leads to a stressful situation for the students or a phobia. However, research specialists have simply discarded this theory and made this point clear that examination phobia can be observed among an underprepared, fully prepared, normally prepared as well as an over-prepared student.


A lot of times the most anxious people tend to be the ones who are least prepared, but occasionally they are the high achievers for whom only the top grades will do and even bright students who have prepared well may also experience anxiety that may cause an examination phobia. Examinations vary in their intentions and purpose, and the fact that they are often only revealed at the time of the exam makes them unpredictable.

A lot of preparation and expectations are also facts that trigger stress among the students. Lack of predictability and control are sure to make most people feel anxious and this is a fact of life not simply examinations. You can improve your odds if you have a broad understanding of the topic. You will find this helps your ability to answer the question(s) in the form the examiner has set.

It is important to realize in time that you have developed a phobia from something and overcome your phobia at the right time before it ruins a good opportunity of your life. It is important to realize that factors such as caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications can cause anxiety symptoms. Traumatic life events such as the death of a family member, witnessing a death, war, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes may trigger anxiety disorders or phobias.

How to overcome phobia?

If you are suffering from any kind of phobia, it is important that you must act to overcome your problem before it takes on you. When it comes to treating phobias, self-help strategies and therapy can both be effective. What’s best for you depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your phobia, your insurance coverage, and the amount of support you need.

As a general rule, self-help is always worth a try. The more you can do for yourself, the more in control you’ll feel which goes a long way when it comes to phobias and fears. However, if your phobia is so severe that it triggers panic attacks or uncontrollable anxiety, you may want to get additional support, do not hesitate to get professional support if the problem is serious.

Yoga and meditation is also effective in keeping your mind calm and developing your inner strength.

If you are trying self-therapy then you must start with full confidence and motivation. Face your fears, one step at a time and should never consider stepping back an option. It’s only natural to want to avoid the thing or situation you fear but this time don’t avoid them rather find your ways out to deal with those.

When it comes to overcoming phobias, facing your fears is the key. Face your phobias fearlessly and you will wonder that no longer these would be a problem for you. While avoidance may make you feel better in the short-term, it prevents you from learning that your phobia may not be as frightening or overwhelming as you think. You never get the chance to learn how to cope with your fears and experience control over the situation. As a result, the phobia becomes increasingly scarier and more daunting in your mind. Hence don’t fear, just face these strongly and kick your phobias away from your life forever.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


studentsexam phobiaexamination fevertest anxiety

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at


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