What is Test Taking Anxiety?
Test anxiety: It’s something that affects students, parents, and educators more than ever before. The pressure is on as test scores determine the academic futures of students, what grade a school gets, and the professional reputation of teachers and principals. Moreover, the financial consequences can be substantial. Because tests have become so common and so critical, offering students test anxiety tips and stress management skills is very important.
Student Stress Management
Like adults, some students are more prone to worry than others. A fascinating article earlier this year in the New York Times Magazine entitled, “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?” sheds light on new findings regarding the difference between kids who are “Worriers” and those who are “Warriors.” Worriers experience extreme test anxiety while warriors seem to thrive under the pressure. While many factors influence whether one is a Worrier or a Warrior, there is a gene called the COMT gene that may explain why one child is more prone to worry while another remains unfazed. The good news is that research shows that stress can play a healthy role in all of our lives, even in the lives of those who worry.
One key factor that determines whether our students’ anxiety can be channeled into a positive outcome is how they view a stressful event. When children are overwhelmed by the task at hand because they are not prepared for what is coming, anxiety can be quite destructive. However, given the right preparation and tools to succeed, stress can actually enhance performance. Research has shown that people benefit when they view a competition as an invigorating challenge rather than as a threat –even when that competition is a high-stakes test.
How to Relieve Test Anxiety
So what can you do as an educator? You can start by talking positively about test assessment, presenting tests as a challenge wherein students get to prove their abilities and skills. Be enthusiastic and share your confidence in their abilities. Make sure to give your students stress management strategies such as deep breathing or focusing on a spot in the room so that if they hit a mental block or feel very anxious during the test they have something to do. It is also important to talk to your colleagues and your superiors about your feelings toward testing.
Text Anxiety Tips
There are plenty of useful test anxiety tips out there, and you can also always turn to your school counseling staff for extra support. I would like to share one strategy that seems both simple and effective. A study from the University of Chicago entitled “Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom” by Gerardo Ramirez and Sian L. Beilock found that students who were prone to test anxiety were able to increase their test grades by one grade point when given ten minutes to write about their feelings before the test. This stress management technique is easy to implement and can make a big difference to your students. It might be worthwhile to try it on a classroom test that’s a little less stressful and see how it goes, and then move on to using it for a high-stakes test.
Test taking anxiety can pose a formidable challenge to students. As teachers, we should take the needs of all students into account, including those who suffer from test anxiety. When a few students are experiencing stress, they can easily impact the outlook and emotions of an entire class. By implementing some stress management tactics in our testing routines, teachers allow all students to benefit from a calmer testing environment.