Councelling a Student With Examination Anxiety.


In this Article we are going to discuss about background of behavioural therapy, behavioral theory, examination anxiety and how to counsel a student with examination anxiety.Human behaviours are known through an examination of what people say and do.

That is to say all psychological approaches are based on the study of behaviour but they differ in the way the behaviour s areused. Behaviour is the function of heredity and environment. The behaviorallyorianted psychologists focus on the observable behaviour and environmental conditions.


Behavioural therapy had it beginnings in the early 1900’s and became established as psychological approach in the 1950’s and 1960’s. At this time, it received much resistance from current school of thought, psychoanalysis.

There have been a number of people that have contributed to the development of behavioural therapy such as Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), John B. Watson (1878-1958), and B.F Skinner (1904-1958) John Dollard (1900-1980), & Neal Miller (1909-2002), Joseph Wolpe (1915-1977), Albert Bandura (1925) and many more others.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) contributions to behavioral therapy are said to be accidental. He was originally studying the digestive process of dogs when he discovered that the associations can develop when pairing a stimulus (food) that has a response (dog salivates) with a stimulus that has no response (bell).

The stimulus that has no response (bell) eventually develops the same response (dog salivates) as the stimuli that has response (food). This type of learning is known as classical conditioning.

John B. Watson (1878-1958) Watson has been described as the “father’’ of behaviorism (McLeod). He used Pavlov’s principles of classical conditioning as well as emphasizing that all behaviours could be understood as a result of learning. Watson research involved the study of a young child called “Albert”. Albert was initially not scared of rats; however Watson paired the rat with a loud noise and this frightened “Albert”.

After this was repeated numerous times, Albert developed fear of rats.He also developed fear to things similar to rats such as men with beards,dogs, and fur coats. This fear was extinguished after a month of not repeating the experiment(www.counselingconnection, 2010).


This theory is based on observable behaviors which are explained in terms of environment and inheritance. Behavioral theory seeks to explain human behavior by analyzing the antecedents and consequences present in the individual environment and learn association he/she has acquired through previous experience.

The theory originates from a system of psychology known as behaviorism. Behaviorismmay be traced to the temples in Greece, where primitive from psychiatry was practiced and to the early aversive treatment of the Romans who placed eels in the wine to cure alcoholism(Okeke, 1996).


Behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that seeks to identify and help change potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors. It functions on the idea that all behaviors are learned and that unhealthy behaviors can be changed.

It focuses on helping an individual understand how changing their behavior can lead to changes in how they are feeling. The goal of behavior therapy is usually focusing on increasing the person’s engagement in positive or socially reinforcing activities.

It is a structured approach that carefully maesyres what the person is doing and then seeks to increase chances for positive experience (, 2005).


It is a combination of psychological over-arousal, tension, and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure and catastrophizing that occur before or during test situations. It is physiological situation where people experience extreme stress, anxiety during or before taking a test.

Researchers believe that feelings of anxiety arise to prepare a person for threats. Responses consist of increased heart rate, stress hormone secretion, restlessness, vigilance and fear of potentially dangerous environment, headache, shortness of breath, rapid breathing sweating, pacing or fidgeting, crying, racing thoughts and blanking out (Denga, 1983).

Test anxiety consists of;

Psychological over arousal,often termed emotionally. Somatic signs include headaches, stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, light-headedness or fainting, rapid heartbeats and dry mouth.

Worry and dread, it includes catastrophic expectations of gloom and doom, fear of failure, random thoughts, feeling of inadequacy, self condemnation, and negative self-talks frustrations and comparing oneself unfavorably to others.
Cognitive this includespoor concentration,going blank or freezingconfusion and poor organization.

Students often report blank outs even if they have studied sufficiently for the test.
Emotional,low self esteem, anger, and feeling of hopelessness.


  • Fear of failure, While the pressure to perform can act as motivator, it also can be devastating to individual who tie their self worth to the outcome of a test or examination.
  • Irrational thinking, Negative attitude of students to the subject teacher, that his /her examination is difficult can make fear to the students about examination or test of a particular subject or course which lead to examination or test anxiety to the students.
  • Lack of preparation, Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can leave individuals feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
  • Poor test history, Previous problems or bad experiences with test-taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests.
  • General life style,Lack of enough time to sleep, diet, exercise, inadequate rest, poor nutrition, too many stimulants, insufficient exercise,. If you are exhausted, physically or emotionally it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety.

Unfamiliarity, Unfamiliarity between teacher and students at particular subject or may lead fear to the student hence to the anxiety in an examination or test to the upcoming examination/test in the classroom (www.counselingconnection, 2010)


Behavioral counseling process involves six basic steps which are to be considered when counseling and helping a student with fear or stress of test or examination,
Problem identification,In this first stage the counselor tries to understand client’s problems.

The counselor encourages the client to talk. He uses verbal and non-verbal signs to communicate to the client that he is following presentation. In identification of problems the client has also to help the client define his problem in specific terms.

This is why the counselor has to listen carefully, critically, and analyze what the client says so as to pin down what is really the cause of the student to have examination stress. In studying the problem the counselor has equally to really find out from the client how the problem really started.

For the case of examination fear the counselor should know the pattern the client’s examination stress takes. He should know the motivation factors as well. The student should be made aware of his/her problem and the counselor should help the student during the process to identify those unacceptable anxiety characters (Nwaogu, 2002).

Formulation of counseling goals, the second step in the counseling process is to formulate goals. The counselor helps the client to determine what he wants to achieve by the end of the counseling process. The goals to be achieved should be stated in behavioral terms.

The counselor and the student should bear certain things in mind. Here the counselor should start to identify why does the student fear the exam, is it because of the less preparation before the exam or the fear to fail? All these factors should be put in consideration and given adequate attention before success can be achieved.

In setting goals the counselor has to see they are achievable. The counselor can not set goals for the student; it has to be done jointly by the student and the counselor (Okeke, 1996).
Selecting appropriate procedures, there are various available procedures that the counselors can use to modify undesirable behaviors and help the student to solve their problems however, the student and the counselor should suggest the appropriate procedure considering the goals to be achieved and the nature of the problem to be solved.

In selecting the appropriate procedure a counselors has to, list all appropriate procedures, discuss with the student if they are acceptable and manageable, assist the student to choose the most appropriate procedure, and teach the student the best technique to be used (Nwaogu, 2002).

Treatment, The student with examination anxiety having known the techniques and procedure in solving his/her problem can even go home and take the treatment, keeping records for his/her habit and putting into practice the elimination of factors contributing to his/her bad habits.

Evaluation,This involves assessing the progress of the counseling process or treatment. Evaluation should be continuous so as to make instant modification if the need arises. In the other words if the goals are not to be archived in time, the counselor will know and change or modify the techniques used as to archive the goals.

Follow up, Assuming that the student has modified his behavioral(problem).The counselor will give the student length of time say two months or enough time, after which the counselor goes back to see if the student is still keeping to his/her words. This can be done through interviewing the student, asking people around him like parents, siblings, fellow students, and teachers of other subjects and observing him/her.

In other words the counselor monitors the student after counseling has been terminated to find out the progress or other wise of the student’s performance (Okeke, 1996).


Here are some strategies that may help reduce your test anxiety, Learn how to study efficiently, Establish a consistent pre-test routine, Learn relaxation techniques, don’t forget to eat and drink, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, talk to your teacher, don’t ignore a learning disability, see a professional counselor, if necessary.

Councelling a Student With Examination Anxiety
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Councelling a Student With Examination Anxiety
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