Understanding and Preventing Test Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition that plagues millions of Americans everyday, but how does it affect our children and students? Students suffer everyday from test anxiety which is a type of performance anxiety, a

feeling someone might have in a situation were performance is important and there is pressure. Test anxiety is not the same as doing poorly on a test because of distraction or one’s mind being on something else. It is an actual condition.

Like all forms of anxiety, test anxiety has many symptoms and signs. Physical signs of test anxiety include perspiration, sweaty palms, headache, upset stomach, rapid heart beat, difficulty breathing, and tense muscles. Students may experience any number of theses signs during a test or exam. All students suffer from some degree of test anxiety, however, when students experience signs like these there is a problem. (Hurley)

As all anxiety comes from anticipation, test anxiety is no different; it comes from the anticipation of a test or exam. When the body is under stress it will release adrenaline to prepare it’s self. The adrenaline is what causes physical symptoms such as sweating, increased heart beat, and difficulty breathing. The stress comes from worrying about past performance, how others are doing, or the fear of failure. Focusing on such things fuels the anxiety and leaves no thoughts or mental space for thinking about the test questions. Test anxiety can also be caused by lack of preparation such as cramming, bad time management, not organizing test information, or poor study habits. (University of Buffalo)

Test anxiety can become a vicious cycle; the more a student worries or focuses on the bad things the stronger the feeling of anxiety. The person will continue to feel worse and be filled with distracting thoughts and therefore not be able to perform well even though the student may have known the information necessary.

There can be many effects of test anxiety such as nervousness or mental blocking University of Buffalo). Nervousness brings difficulty reading and understanding test questions, difficulty organizing thoughts, difficulty remembering key words or concepts for essay questions, and doing poorly on a test when the student knows the material. Mental blocking can be going blank on questions or remembering the correct answer right after the test ends. Sometimes students will study and know the material but because of the anxiety they suffer from they can not perform well, because of nervousness and mental blocking.

There are many ways to reduce test anxiety being prepared or anticipating the on set of anxiety will really help as well as asking for help (Kids Health). The following is a collaborated list of preparation to reduce test anxiety.
• Approach the exam with confidence (Study Guides and Strategies)
• Learn material thoroughly so that you can still remember it under stress
• Self test as much as possible
• Avoid laziness and procrastination
• Use good time management
• Avoid cramming and the desire to do so
• Strive to stay relaxed and concentrate
• Avoid conversation or talking to those who are next to you or that will speak negatively.
• Have a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and “down time”
• Sit in a well lit area of the room with the least distractions
• Be on time for the test
• Read test instructions and directions carefully
• Take slow deep breaths when the test is being passed out and when needed during testing
• Stay focused on only the exam
• Avoid day dreaming
• Make flash cards or outlines to study with
• Take good notes and review them after every class.

The environment that the student studies in is very important to preparing and reducing test anxiety. The noise should be minimized and not distracting. Some students may need some noise while others may need silence. It may be a good idea to not answer the phone while studying to keep distraction done. Good lighting is a must. Seventy five watt bulbs are suggested to be best. It is better to keep the room cool rather then warm. Choose an area that has plenty of space and is not cramped. Your study time may also go smoother if the area is neat and tidy, so take a few minutes and clean up. Study at a desk with a straight back chair so you do not get to comfortable and want to sleep. Have everything you need to study with before you start so there are no distractions, this may include drinks and snacks. (University of Buffalo)

Teachers also need to provide an environment that is appropriate for any kind of assessment that they are giving. It may also be necessary for students that suffer from test anxiety to be tested in a different room or be provided other resources and tools to be able to perform adequately.

During the test a student can also use different strategies to reduce anxiety. Be sure to read the directions carefully and budget the test taking time. Change positions periodically throughout the test to help keep you relaxed. If you go blank or can not think of an answer skip the question and come back if there is time. When taking an essay test and you can not think of the answer on any of the questions just start writing and it may come to you. Most important do not panic even if other students are turning in their papers; you do not have to finish first. If you start to tense up or get anxious just relax and remember you are in control. Take slow deep breaths, stop and think about the next step and try to stay on task. Try to use positive reinforcement, look at what you have done. Expect some anxiety and use it to your benefit as a driving force. (Study Guides and Strategies)

When someone comes aware that they may suffer from test anxiety that person should seek help. Tell your teacher and/or counselor so that special measures can be taken to assure that you can do your best. There are also local resources that may be able to help. Test anxiety is a real condition that needs to treated and addressed.

Works Cited

• Kubiszyn, Tom and Borich, Gary, Educational Testing and Measurement Classroom Application and Practice 8th Edition, pg. 50-51, 2007.
• Landsberger, Joe, Dealing with Test Anxiety, Study Guides and Strategies, www.studygs.net/tstprp8.htm, 4-12-07
• University of Buffalo, Test Anxiety, http://ub-counseling.buffalo.edu/stresstestanxiety.shtml, 4-12-07
• www.sdc.uwo.ca/learning/mcanx.html, Managing Test Anxiety, 4-12-07
• Hurley, Ednalyn K., Understanding and Preventing Test Anxiety
• www.kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/school/test_anxiety.html, Test Anxiety, 4-12-07