Evaluation anxiety: how does it affect our academic performance?

Evaluation anxiety: how does it affect our academic performance?

School and academic learning is greatly affected by anxiety levels, especially evaluation anxiety, which are experienced in teaching-learning situations.

The stress caused by exams is a fact that is too widespread to be ignored.. The same goes for "blockages", "amnesias" and many other obstacles and manifestations that hinder academic performance. Anxiety in the school context not only has consequences on academic performance.

Extreme pathologies such as separation anxiety and school phobia are anxious manifestations that relate specifically to the educational context. These types of extreme anxiety include rejection and avoidance behavior of most activities related to the school context.


  • 1 Evaluation anxiety: how does it affect our academic performance?
  • 2 Treatment of evaluative anxiety
  • 3 Phases of evaluation anxiety treatment

Evaluation anxiety: how does it affect our academic performance?

Evaluation anxiety is one that arises from evaluation situations such as exams or oral exposures in which the person is involved in the result or qualification that is derived from it.

Evaluation anxiety would be linked to certain attention behavior that would favor the person being in alert status awaiting any positive or negative evaluation. These alert states would in themselves suppose a certain predisposition to unjust and anxious behavior.

If the alert state caused by the suspicion of negative evaluation we add the set of cognitions represented by the constant worry and anticipation of the worst, we have the following:

The emergence of a peculiar cognitive style that would increase feelings of inefficiency and that could be prolonged through that peculiar style of attribution in an inefficient learning style

Treatment of evaluative anxiety

One of the essential points in the treatment of anxiety assessment must be precisely the modification of these negative cognitions. Thus, the cognitive restructuring as part of the intervention program, with the objective of modifying maladaptive attributions and evaluative biases.

In addition to the control of cognitive variables, also we must take into account the physiological components associated with anxiety

  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardias
  • Sleep disorders, etc.

Another component of the intervention program will be training in relaxation and / or breathing techniques.

This will allow us to control, on the one hand, the general state of activation and, on the other, the specific moments of extreme anxiety (exam situations, work exposures, etc.).

In cases of exposure to the feared situation, such as before the exam or when speaking in public, breathing training is usually quite effective.

Exposure to the feared situation

Now, as in any other case of excessive anxiety, the basic component of the program will be exposure to the feared situation. To the extent possible, this will be done by successive approaches to the phobic situation, so that habituation can occur to the different aspects involved (prior preparation, entrance into the classroom, delivery of documentation, delivery of exam, start exposure , etc.).

This graduated exhibition can be reinforced with self-instruction of coping and control of negative thoughts.

In addition, depending on the specific phobia in question, Other techniques that increase specific skills may be included and that allow an improvement in the perceived effectiveness to face the feared situation.

For example, instruction in study techniques in the case of anxiety before exams or in speech techniques in the case of anxiety to speak in public, it usually improves perceived self-efficacy and helps control anxiety.

Phases of evaluation anxiety treatment

The organization of the different therapeutic techniques will depend on the previous needs assessment, being advisable to include:

  1. Pre-treatment evaluation phase: Before starting our program we must evaluate the current state of the person, the general levels of activation and the specific symptoms associated with the anxiety episodes.
  2. Educational phase. In the initial sessions it is important to devote some time to inform about the nature of the problem, the therapeutic procedures to be followed and its theoretical basis. An important function of this phase is to achieve an adequate level of motivation of the person to be treated.
  3. Application phase. The different tasks will be developed: exposure sessions, discussion of thoughts, relaxation / breathing training and self-instructional training. It is important to organize and review the homework which should include: self-records of anxious situations (specifying: situation, thoughts, degree of activation), recommended reading, practice of techniques, etc.
  4. Post-treatment evaluation phase. Once the intervention sessions are completed, a new evaluation will be carried out using the measuring instruments used in the previous phase, with the objective of verifying if the expected change has occurred and in what symptoms.


  • Aguayo, L. V. (1999). Assessment of exam anxiety: Application data and reliability of a CAEX questionnaire.Annals of Psychology / Annals of Psychology15(2), 223-231.
  • Bausela Herreras, E. (2005). Test anxiety: evaluation and psychopedagogical intervention.Educere9(31), 553-557.
  • Caballo, V. E. (2010).Manual for the clinical evaluation of psychological disorders: evaluation strategies, childhood problems and anxiety disorders (No. 616.89). Pyramid.