Anxiety Among High School Seniors Regarding CBT Exams

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High school seniors face significant stress during their academic careers, particularly when approaching high-stakes Computer-Based Tests (CBT) such as JEE, NEET, CUET, and CLAT. This report examines the extent of anxiety experienced by students due to these exams, focusing not only on academic challenges but also on the procedural aspects of CBT exams.

Key Findings

The Impact of High-Stakes Exams on Stress Levels

High-stakes exams have a profound impact on students’ academic destinies and careers, and their importance can generate considerable stress among test-takers 1. Studies have shown that students’ cortisol levels, a stress hormone, rise significantly during the week of standardized tests, with male students experiencing a particularly sharp increase 2. Elevated cortisol levels can impair focus, recall, and task performance, potentially leading to a substantial decrease in test scores 3.

Test Anxiety and Cognitive Processes

Meta-analyses indicate that students with higher test anxiety tend to perform worse on exams due to the effect of anxiety on cognitive processes, particularly working memory capacity 4. However, a study with German medical students suggested that test anxiety did not predict exam performance when prior knowledge was accounted for, indicating that poor exam preparation might be a more significant factor than the constraints of working memory during the exam 5. Interventions to reduce test anxiety are most effective when implemented well before the test 6.

School Interventions for Test Anxiety

Schools can play a crucial role in supporting students to manage exam anxiety. Effective strategies include teaching examination and revision techniques, helping students challenge negative thoughts, and managing physical symptoms of stress 7. Skill-building interventions and relaxation techniques taught by mental health professionals can alleviate test anxiety and improve performance 8.

Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions

Cognitive-behavioral interventions have been effective in treating test anxiety, leading to significant reductions in anxiety levels and associated clinical anxiety symptoms 9. However, these interventions did not impact school-related wellbeing, which suggests that while they can address anxiety, they do not necessarily improve overall student happiness or satisfaction 10.

The Broader Mental Health Toll of Academic Pressure

Academic pressure contributes to a range of mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression, substance use, and poor sleep quality 11. A significant number of students worry about grades and test-taking, with many experiencing anxiety even when they feel prepared 12. The stress of academic demands can lead to burnout and lower academic achievement 13.


High school seniors experience significant anxiety related to CBT exams, which is influenced by both the academic demands of the exams and the procedural aspects of taking CBTs. While cognitive-behavioral interventions can reduce test anxiety, addressing the root causes of stress, such as academic pressure and exam preparation, is crucial for improving students’ mental health and exam performance.


  • Early Intervention: Schools should implement strategies to reduce test anxiety well before exam periods 14.
  • Comprehensive Support: Schools need to provide support that addresses both the psychological and physiological aspects of test anxiety 15.
  • Focus on Preparation: Ensuring that students are adequately prepared academically can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with test-taking 16.

By understanding and addressing the multifaceted nature of test anxiety, educators and policymakers can better support high school seniors in managing the stress of CBT exams.