You’ve probably heard it many times before. You have studied for the test with your child and sent them off confident that they will be successful, then only to have them return from school hanging their head and explaining how they just “went blank” on the test. Test anxiety is very real although its validity is frequently questioned. Here are 9 myths about Test Anxiety (Adapted from the Worchester Polytechnic Institute Academic Resources).
1. Students are born with test anxiety
Test anxiety is a learned behavior. It is a response that often stems from fear of failure, pressure to perform well, lack of preparation, poor test history, and a sense that one’s personal worth is based on academics.
2. Test anxiety is a mental illness
This is simply not true. Test anxiety is a response to test taking that is a mix of somatic (what happens biologically) and cognitive (what happens mentally) responses that create panic.
3. Test anxiety cannot be reduced
Good news! Yes it can! It is a learned response that can be unlearned. Here are a few simple strategies to help control and conquer test anxiety.
• Prepare well. It sounds obvious, but it’s true. Review all material from class daily. Do not wait until a quiz or test is announced to begin review
• Practice deep breathing or relaxation techniques
• Develop good test-taking skills. Break tests into smaller parts. Work on the easier parts first.
• Ask to take your tests alone and not with the class
• Ask the teacher to give you an oral test before or after school or during lunch
• Stay positive
• Get a good night’s sleep
• Exercise and eat healthy
• Listen to music
• For parents: encourage your kids! Parents have the ability to address underlying fears that may be present with test-taking. At a deep level, even subconsciously, a student may fear failure for a variety of reasons. There could be a fear of looking dumb to friends, of not getting into the best school, or of not meeting parent’s expectations. A great help is for parents to reinforce their unconditional support and encouragement to the child. Parents, let your children know that their grade does not determine their worth. Believe in your child.
4. Any level of test anxiety is bad
On the contrary, having a small amount of test anxiety can be helpful. The desire to get the right answer can be motivating, can cause us to focus and set in motion our learning skills. A healthy amount of nerves can help us rise to the occasion.
5. All students who are not prepared have test anxiety
This is not true. Although the level of preparedness does affect test anxiety, only those who care about doing well will experience anxiety. If the child does not care about the test they are likely to not be nervous.
6. Students with test anxiety cannot learn math
Test anxiety has no correlation to math ability or the ability to learn in general. It is the assessment and the idea of being graded that produces the anxiety.
7. Students who are well prepared will not have test anxiety
Although being well prepared will certainly help to reduce test anxiety, it may not stop it altogether. Other factors such as those listed above will also play a part, see NO#3.
8. Very intelligent students and students taking high-level courses do not have test anxiety
Actually, these students may have a greater risk of experiencing test anxiety. Remember anxiety is often experienced by those who care about doing well, and feel a sense of pressure to perform well on tests.
9. Attending class and doing homework should reduce test anxiety
Yes, anything that can be done to prepare and review in advance of an assessment will certainly help to reduce anxiety. Help your kids be ready for the test.