By University of Phoenix
Test anxiety is a real problem, affecting 25% to 40% of U.S. students. Anxiety, along with academic stress, can appear as physical symptoms (such as headaches, nausea and sleeplessness) and psycho-emotional symptoms (like difficulty concentrating or increased irritability).
While test anxiety is common, it’s important to make sure it’s not debilitating. Parents, guardians and educators can play an active role in supporting students experiencing these feelings. They can provide resources that teach relaxation techniques and testing strategies, or simply listen as students share their concerns. Here, we’ll explore eight ways educators can help ease test anxiety in students.
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Helping students who suffer from test anxiety starts with proper preparation. This means helping them study effectively and creating a clear plan for their testing day. Preparation can look different for individuals, but there are a few tips everyone can benefit from:
Test anxiety can be rooted in a number of underlying fears, such as:
Try to understand why your student is feeling anxious or scared about testing. Ask questions about past testing experience, what triggers their stress and how they feel when testing. For example:
As the student’s feelings and fears become clearer, you can offer more targeted and practical support, and you can discuss strategies and resources to help address these issues and succeed in learning, both online and in the classroom.
It can be challenging for those who experience testing anxiety to feel they are seen and heard, so it’s crucial to give them an opportunity to prove their competency. This could mean providing them with additional testing time or a relaxed testing environment. You could also offer constructive feedback on their testing performance and encouragement to keep trying.
Additionally, you can provide extra testing resources such as practice tests or test-taking strategies. This way, students can achieve tangible results and understand success is possible with the right support.
To help students maintain a better perspective on testing, explain that testing is only one part of the learning journey. Remind them to take a step back and focus on the bigger picture. The testing process has many moving parts, and it’s essential to help students see that testing is not the only way to measure their intelligence or abilities.
Encourage them to explore other opportunities such as:
These experiences can give students a wider perspective on how intelligence and competency are assessed as well as provide them with alternative paths to success. Likewise, a broader perspective can help build self-confidence and resilience, which can, in turn, help reduce testing anxiety.
Test anxiety is often caused or exacerbated by preexisting anxiety. Approximately 31.9% of adolescents reported having an active form of the condition, with 8.3% experiencing extreme levels that meet the DSM-IV criteria for impairment. Therefore, helping students address and manage underlying stress in both the short and long term can be helpful.
Not every condition is the same, but some ideas for helping students manage their stress include:
By doing this, you can help students feel more secure in their testing environment and better manage their testing anxiety overall.
Test-taking strategies are specific tools, techniques and approaches that can be used to maximize performance, reduce stress and improve confidence. Examples of effective test-taking strategies include:
One of the best ways to help students manage testing anxiety is by encouraging positive thinking. Positive thinking can be a powerful tool for believing in one’s ability to succeed and perform well on testing days. Positive thinking can also help reduce stress levels, preventing testing anxiety from spiraling out of control.
Positive thinking takes practice, and building healthy habits can create a framework to achieve that. Help your students develop concrete examples of positive self-talk they can use on testing days, such as, “I am capable and confident,” or, “I can do this!” Have students write these affirmations and commit them to memory.
Other ways to encourage positive thinking include:
Getting a good night’s sleep before a testing day is one of the best ways to reduce stress and maximize performance. Sleep helps restore energy levels, dispel mental fog and improve memory.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children ages 6 to 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours and youths ages 13 to 18 get 8 to 10 hours.
Here are some ways to optimize sleep before testing:
Reducing text anxiety is just one part of finding success in the classroom. Explore educational degrees and certificates at University of Phoenix for more strategies and techniques!
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