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Beating Test Anxiety

I’ll be the first to admit that I had severe test anxiety when I was in middle and high school. For many, the things I might describe are unfathomable– maybe crazy sounding. But, here are some of the things I used to experience:

In spite of hours of preparation, as the night before a test approached, my nerves started to jitter. I was nervous about performing well on the test, which is the most common fear for anxious testers. I would feel my heart pounding, and my fingers and arms shaky. I would think about the items I’d memorized for the test, reciting and writing them down, checking that I had remembered every last thing. Sleeping the night before a test was never an option. The adrenaline would pump through me just enough to get me through a sleepless night and to the test, after which I would crash, feeling exhausted and drained. Oh, and did I mention that these feelings were often shared for quizzes, too?

My mother tried, to no avail, to help me with my anxiety. She would remind me that I was over-prepared. That I knew the material. That my grades would be great. And if they weren’t it wasn’t the end of the world. But the sweaty palms, jittery body, nausea, and inability to eat beforehand were overwhelming– to say the least. When I finally got to the test, I would freeze. It would take a few minutes before I could feel ready to collect my thoughts start the test. I didn’t think there was a solution. And, I thought I was alone in my anxiety. I thought I was just plain crazy.

So, what has changed since the days when I was a kid? Well, for starters, there is perhaps more emphasis placed on testing. Kids are tested constantly, especially through state standardized testing. While offering more tests more frequently might help to diffuse student anxiety (because they are conditioned to take more tests more often) there may be some students who experience a compounding effect on their anxiety. But, more importantly, offering more tests means we have become more aware of test anxiety as an issue. This means that parents are getting better advise to help their children.

Among the suggestions are the following:

  1. Encourage students to get plenty of sleep before the test
  2. Ask students to draft about their fears or concerns on paper
  3. Have students present the information they know. If they can teach the concept, they know the concept
  4. Provide an ample breakfast the morning of the test
  5. Encourage students to limit their distractions during the test (This might mean avoiding clothing or jewelry that a child may play with during the test. I am am earring twirler– so I never test with earrings in!)
  6. Provide encouragement and feedback after the test. Share in students’ piece of mind after the test is over

Do you have tips of your own? Comment on our Facebook page! We’d love to know what you do to avoid or suppress test anxiety!