The Psychology Of Test-Taking: Why We Choke Under Pressure And What You Can Do About It

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being under pressure. Your heart races, your palms start to sweat, and your mind goes blank. For some people, this feeling is exhilarating. But for others, it’s downright paralyzing.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the psychology of test-taking and explore some strategies for managing your anxiety and performing your best when it matters most.

Table of contents

Pressure and test-taking – how do they affect each other?

If you’re feeling pressure about an upcoming test, it can make it more difficult to focus and do well on the actual test. On the other hand, if you do poorly on a test, that can add even more pressure and stress. So it’s definitely a good idea to try to find ways to reduce the pressure you’re feeling before a test, and also to do your best to relax and focus when taking the actual test.

There are a few different things that you can do to try to reduce the amount of pressure you’re feeling before a test. First, make sure that you give yourself enough time to study and prepare. If you’re feeling rushed or like you don’t know the material well, that can add a lot of unnecessary pressure. Second, try to practice relaxing techniques beforehand, such as deep breathing or visualization. And finally, remind yourself that it’s just a test and that everyone makes mistakes – so even if you don’t get a perfect score, it’s not the end of the world.

When it comes to taking the actual test, there are a few things that can help you stay calm and focused. First, take a few deep breaths before starting and remind yourself that you’re prepared. Second, try to go through the questions one at a time and not get overwhelmed by the whole test. And finally, if you start to feel like you’re getting stressed, take a break for a few minutes and then come back to the test refreshed.

The psychology behind why we choke under pressure.

Choking is a phenomenon that occurs when an individual performs worse than expected in a given situation, despite having the skills to succeed. This can happen in any area of life, but is especially common in high-pressure situations such as public speaking, taking exams, or competing in sports.

There are a number of theories as to why choking occurs, but one of the most popular is the self- focus theory. This theory suggests that individuals who focus too much on their own performance are more likely to choke. This is because they become so focused on not making a mistake that they actually end up making more mistakes.

There are a few things that you can do to prevent choking in high-pressure situations. One of the most important is to focus on the task at hand, rather than your own performance. This means thinking about what you need to do in order to succeed, rather than worrying about making a mistake.

It is also helpful to practice in similar high-pressure situations. This will help you to become more comfortable with the situation and reduce the chances of choking when it really matters.

Finally, remember that everyone makes mistakes. What counts is how you recover from them. If you do make a mistake, try to stay calm and focus on the rest of the task at hand.

Is there a way to prevent choking under pressure?

First, it is important to identify the circumstances that tend to lead to choking. Once you know what your triggers are, you can work on avoiding them or managing them in a better way. Secondly, it is helpful to practice relaxation techniques and visualization exercises in order to calm your mind and body before a big event. Finally, it is also important to have faith in your abilities and to know that you can handle the pressure. If you believe in yourself, you are more likely to succeed.

How does our mindset affect our performance on tests?

The general consensus is that having a positive mindset can significantly improve test scores, while having a negative mindset can lead to poorer performance.

One reason why having a positive mindset is so important for test-taking is that it can help reduce anxiety. Anxiety is a major factor that can lead to poor performance on tests, so by reducing anxiety levels, students are more likely to perform better. Additionally, having a positive mindset can help improve focus and concentration, both of which are essential for doing well on tests.

It’s important to note that not all students will have the same mindset going into a test. Some students may be naturally more anxious than others, and some students may have had negative experiences with tests in the past that have led to them having a negative mindset. However, there are things that all students can do to try to improve their mindset before a test.

Some tips for improving your mindset before a test include:

  • Getting plenty of rest the night before the test so that you feel well-rested and ready to focus
  • Eating a healthy breakfast or lunch on the day of the test to help improve your energy and concentration levels
  • Taking some time to relax and de-stress before the test so that you feel calm and focused
  • Visualizing yourself doing well on the test and picturing yourself getting the score that you want

Why do some people excel under pressure while others crumble?

Some people may be able to thrive under pressure because they’re naturally competitive or driven to succeed. Others may have developed strong coping mechanisms that help them stay calm and focused in stressful situations.

Some research suggests that people who excel under pressure may have a higher tolerance for anxiety and stress. This means that they’re less likely to experience the negative effects of pressure, such as decreased performance or increased anxiety. Other studies have found that people who do well under pressure tend to be more optimistic and have a greater sense of self-efficacy (belief in their own ability to succeed).

It’s worth noting that not all pressure is created equal. Some types of pressure, such as deadline pressure or the pressure to perform in a high-stakes situation, can be more motivating than others. On the other hand, chronic stress or feeling like you’re constantly under pressure can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

The impact of anxiety on test-taking performance.

Individuals who are high in test anxiety tend to perform more poorly on tests than those who are low in test anxiety. This relationship has been found across a variety of different types of tests, including academic achievement tests, intelligence tests, and standardized exams.

There are a number of potential explanations for why anxiety might lead to poorer performance on tests. One possibility is that anxious individuals have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand due to their worry and rumination. Another possibility is that anxiety leads to physiological arousal that interferes with optimal functioning. Finally, it is also possible that test anxiety leads to negative expectancies about one’s performance, which in turn leads to poorer performance.

Despite the well-documented relationship between anxiety and test performance, it is important to keep in mind that not all individuals who are anxious about taking tests will necessarily perform poorly. In fact, some research has shown that moderate levels of anxiety can actually improve performance on certain types of tasks (Eysenck & Calvo, 1992). It is only when anxiety reaches a certain level that it begins to have a negative impact on performance.

How can we use positive psychology to help us perform better under pressure?

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living. It is a relatively new field that explores how we can use psychological principles to help us achieve our full potential and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

One area of focus for positive psychologists is how we can perform better under pressure. We all experience stress and anxiety at times, and it can be tough to stay calm and focused when the pressure is on.

Fortunately, there are some things we can do to ease our stress and anxiety and boost our performance under pressure. Here are four tips from positive psychology that can help:

1. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a state of being present in the moment and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. When we’re mindful, we can better manage our stress and anxiety because we’re not getting caught up in racing thoughts or worrying about the future.

To practice mindfulness, try focusing on your breath for a few minutes each day. Pay attention to the sensation of your breath going in and out of your body. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath.

2. Set realistic goals.

One of the main sources of stress and anxiety is feeling like we’re not good enough or that we’re not meeting our own high standards. We can ease this pressure by setting realistic goals for ourselves.

Think about what you want to achieve and then break it down into small, manageable steps. When we have a clear plan, we’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.

3. Find your flow state.

Flow state, also known as “the zone,” is a state of peak performance where we’re completely focused and in the moment. When we’re in a flow state, time seems to slow down and everything else falls away.

To find your flow state, choose an activity that you enjoy and that challenges you just enough to keep you engaged. It could be anything from painting to playing a musical instrument to working on a challenging project at work.

4. Connect with others.

Stress and anxiety can often make us feel isolated and alone. However, one of the best things we can do for our mental health is to connect with others.

Spending time with friends and loved ones can help reduce stress and promote positive emotions like happiness and joy. If you’re feeling isolated, reach out to a friend or family member and see if they’re available for a chat.

Can practice reduce the effects of choking under pressure?

Yes, practice can help reduce the effects of choking under pressure. When you rehearse or practice a particular skill, you are more likely to perform that skill accurately under pressure. This is because practicing a skill helps build muscle memory and automaticity, which makes it easier to execute the skill without having to think about it too much. This can be especially helpful when you are feeling anxious or stressed, as it can help you focus on the task at hand and not on your nerves. Additionally, practicing in pressure-filled situations can also help you become more comfortable with performing under pressure, which can further reduce the effects of choking.

Overcoming test anxiety – tips and tricks.

First, it is important to understand what is causing your anxiety. If you know what is triggering your anxiety, you can try to avoid those situations or triggers. Second, deep breathing exercises can help to calm you down and focus your mind. Third, positive self-talk can help to ease your anxiety and give you confidence. Fourth, try to relax your body by doing some simple stretches or relaxation exercises. Finally, if you have a friend or family member who is supportive, talk to them about your anxiety and ask for their help in dealing with it.

When does test-taking become an unhealthy obsession?

For some people, the pressure of taking tests can become overwhelming. When test-taking becomes an obsession, it can take over a person’s life and cause them immense stress. This can lead to serious health problems, including anxiety and depression. If you or someone you know is struggling with test-taking, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. With treatment, it is possible to manage the condition and live a healthy, balanced life.


The good news is that there are ways to combat this pressure and improve your test-taking skills. Applying some of the principles we’ve discussed in this post can help you manage your anxiety, focus on the task at hand, and perform at your best. Are you ready to overcome your fear of tests and get the grades you deserve? Try out some of these techniques and let us know how they work for you!