You've done practice problems, you've reviewed, and now all of a sudden it's test day. But the students know their stuff, so no worries, right?
Actually, one of the most significant challenges students face before an examination is test taking anxiety. Your student can be one hundred percent prepared but still find themselves hindered by the freeze-brain, knowledge block of pre-test stress.
Fortunately, this anxiety doesn't have to be the be-all-end-all for grades. With a few simple strategies, you can identify and reduce test anxiety in your students.
What is Test Taking Anxiety?
Before tackling the issue, it is important to realize what exactly test taking anxiety is. Students may feel like their heart is racing or feel nauseous and want to throw up. These symptoms are a result of adrenaline, which triggers the "fight or flight" instinct. Because of these variables working against students, it is crucial to break the cycle of anxiety.
Focusing more on test anxiety, the negatives, and the excessive worry only exacerbates the issue. Intervene with support and distractions to quell any anxiety your students might face so they can take their test to the best of their potential.
Remember: just because your students are nervous does not mean they are unprepared.
You Have the Tools
On test day, make sure students have a comfortable location to take a test. Implementing tools like standing desks can make a huge difference in reduced stress levels and increased concentration for better test results.
Kids do not always cope well sitting long periods of time on a regular day. On test day, with cortisol levels already high, this can be another obstacle standing in the way of success. Easing test anxiety with a comfortable environment and tools like standing desks is an excellent way to facilitate a smoother, less tense testing atmosphere.
Incorporate Movements and Hands on Activities
Similar to the philosophy behind using standing desks, getting students up and moving before a test has innumerable benefits to their progress as well. Research shows that exercise reduces anxiety, so why not throw a little in before a test? Even something as minimal as stretching or doing a couple jumping jacks after an activity can result in a significant reduction of stressful and anxious feelings.
There are plenty of classroom-friendly activities to choose from as well. Incorporate things like bouncy chairs, regular fitness breaks, and acting out concepts students are learning. You will be surprised to find the many ways you can add a little movement into your day.
Have Students Write out Thoughts and Feelings Right Before a Test
Another valuable strategy to reduce test anxiety is to have students record their feelings before a test. It doesn't have to be anything lengthy, just a five to ten minute session where students are free to write whatever comes to mind concerning their attitude toward the test. According to the research study, high school and college students suffering from test anxiety who took University of Chicago Professor Sian Beilock's writing assignment scored a grade point higher in their tests compared to those who didn't take it. This may not seem like much, but with continued implementation, the results can add up.
Teachers and Parents to the Rescue
Teachers and parents can also play an active role in reducing their students' test anxiety. Both can monitor a student's test taking habits and make sure they set themselves up for success. Ensuring a good night's sleep, proper nutrition, and boosting their confidence are easy but helpful ways to support a student.
Taking tests is stressful enough without the additional pre-test stress. But if test taking anxiety rears its ugly head, know that there are effective strategies to keep it at bay. Get active, journal your worries, and provide an environment of support. Keeping these tips in mind will keep your student cool, calm, and collected from start to finish.