student-hallwayDoes taking a test cause you to break into a cold sweat and your mind to go blank? You may have test anxiety. Test anxiety is real, and it can be debilitating if you are in college, elementary school or applying for a job.  Test anxiety causes significant decreases in ability to do well on any kind of test. A recent study by Iran researchers at the Hamadan University of Medical Sciences shows a link between people with relatively high emotional intelligence scores and lower test anxiety. The good news is that EQ can be raised by practicing the elemental concepts of the Six Seconds’ model; Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself.

KCG detail model

During exam week, researchers had 200 medical school students complete questionnaires covering socio-demographic information, test anxiety (TA) and emotional intelligence (EI). Higher scores on EI traits were associated with lower TA scores. Relative to male participants, female participants reported higher TA scores, but not EI scores. Intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and mood predicted low TA. Interestingly, stress management strategies, and test taking skills such as those taught in test prep courses did nothing to reduce test anxiety.

How does Text Anxiety Work?

Anxiety is part of a stress reaction that starts as mild fear, and ramps up to  a fight or flight loop that keeps intensifying. What might have started as a thought pattern “I am going to fail this test, I am so unprepared!” quickly bypasses the idea and turns into a physiological reaction between brain and body. The brain senses a threat and releases adrenaline and cortisol which, if you were running from a predator, would help you by giving your heart and lungs a burst of short term energy akin to caffeine. But, since the test is something, presumably, that you don’t run away from, you are stuck with stress hormones building up in your blood stream, causing increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and difficulty thinking.


By recognizing the thought patterns that go with tests, (a key component of “Know Yourself”)you can practice redirecting your thoughts to more positive messages prior to seeing the test.

The study’s results suggest that improving interpersonal skills and mood might benefit students with high TA. Using the methods and understanding of Six Seconds to raise areas where EQ is weakest, and utilize strengths could also improve the test taking experience for those prone to test anxiety.

Read Six Seconds’ article about reducing anxiety with EQ

The study had a fairly small sample size and students at medical schools are generally under a lot of pressure anyway, so may not be typical students. In addition, the survey was self-reported, so the results might have been different if they had taken an assessment such as the SEI created by Six Seconds.

All that aside, this should inspire further study into the connection between anxiety and EQ, and offer hope for those who may be perpetually nervous at test time.

To read more about the study:


Rachel Goodman

Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and communications professional, editor, producer, and writer for effective outcomes. Ms. Goodman has been a radio producer for much of her career, specializing in short features and documentaries. Some of her work includes Southern Songbirds: the Women of Early Country Music, Pastures of Plenty: A History of California's Farmworkers, and The Boomtown Chronicles: Reflections on a Changing California. Ms. Goodman teaches journalism at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz County. Her goals are to facilitate positive change in the world through effective communication, and to continue conducting her work with the highest level of integrity possible.

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