At certain times in your life you may find yourself and your actions are being closely scrutinized. If you are at all uncertain that you can successfully pass close scrutiny, you may find yourself dreaming that you’re taking a test and failing. These types of dreams are considered mirror dreams, or dreams that mirror your feelings back to you. They are not meant to provide you with information about anyone else, but instead to show you areas of your life that need attention.
This dream can take different forms. You may be unable to find the testing center and as you quickly travel through corridors, you can’t find anyone who can tell you where you’re supposed to be to take the test. Or perhaps you’ve arrived at the correct place, but you find that you had the time wrong, the test is over, and everyone has gone home.
It could be that you arrive for the test at the right place and time, but you don’t have the number 2 pencils the test giver demands, and you are not allowed to take the exam. Maybe you do have the pencils but the exam you’ve been handed is completely blank and you aren’t able to let anyone know, or the pencils keep breaking when you try to answer.
Perhaps everything is fine until you see the test and realize you don’t know any of the answers. You receive the test with a great big red failure mark covering the page.
You’ve failed and you won’t be able to reap the rewards that a successful passing grade would have afforded you. Not only that, but others are now mocking you, pointing and laughing as they brandish their own tests marked with passing grades.
Fear of Failure
This is a nightmare that most people have endured in their lifetime. The test is significant, but may be taken literally or symbolically. Maybe you’re about to sit for your final exams and you’re unsure that you’re ready. You may suffer this dream in the nights preceeding the exam date.
If the dream is meant symbolically, the exam could mean something quite different. Something is likely causing you distress in your waking life and you’re not feeling up to the challenge.
Being scrutinized is uncomfortable for most people, so this dream is rather common. Unless you have relatively healthy self-esteem, you may feel as if you’re not going to measure up, that you’re going to fail the test.
Perhaps you’re up for a promotion or a pay raise and you fear you aren’t going to be considered good enough to get it. You may be one of two or more who are being considered for the promotion and you aren’t sure how you measure up against the competition. This dream could be a manifestation of those fears and could help you to recognize that there’s something that needs attention. Maybe there’s something you can do to put yourself ahead of your peers in the minds of your bosses.
The Need to Commit
Or it could be that you’re working on a project and you just haven’t put your all into it. You’re aware that it isn’t your best work and now that it’s time to turn it in, you’re worried that you’re going to be found out.
This type of dream can alert you to subconscious thoughts that plague you, telling you that you should prepare better, work harder, and do more to create the project that your teacher or boss is looking for.
For some, this dream is a reflexion of their every day anxiety. If you feel you don’t measure up, if you think that you’re in over your head; you may have a test dream. If you are not confident that you are ready to move up to the next step in your life, the anxiety may overwhelm you and spill over into your dreams.
This anxiety is common in people who are working their way up the ladder, trying to make a name for themselves in their field of choice while trying to keep up with the Joneses next door.
It’s a very busy time of life when even finding enough time to sleep is hard. Dreams that magnify your fears just increase your anxiety.
If these dreams are plaguing you, it may be time to step back, take stock of what’s important, and concentrate on those things while letting the others go. You’ll find you’ll be happier by day and sleep better by night.
About 20% of people experience test dreams at some time in their lives, though it’s more common in teens and young adults whose lives are generally more stressful than those of young children and older adults.
They are often recurring dreams that continue until the problem is resolved. They may not always take the same form, but the feeling of inadequacy will be central to the dream each time.
Causes of Test Dreams
Indulging in procrastination can cause you to have test dreams. You know it needs to be done, you know there’s a deadline, but you convince yourself that you have plenty of time. You put it off. Deep inside you know that the deadline is approaching and you’re going to have to do some fancy footwork to find the time to get it done if you don’t attend to it now while you have the time. You may ignore the building anxiety in favor of doing something else that’s much more fun, but it’s always there in the back of your head, waiting to plague your dreams. A lack of motivation is difficult to overcome, but you’ll know the problem is coming to a head when it starts interfering with your sleep. It’s time to start working on it while you’re awake.
If you fear being left behind while the rest of the world advances, if you feel alone and you worry that you don’t measure up, that the crowd is moving ahead while you’re unable to keep up, if you feel you just aren’t good enough, these feelings may manifest themselves in dreaded test dreams.
The dreams are your subconscious’ way of making you aware of feelings you may be trying to hide from yourself. They are there to alert you to the need to take action. You may need to work harder, or simply learn to believe in yourself and your worth to the people and world around you.