Standardized Test-Taking Tips & Strategies: Part V – Does Your Student Have Test Anxiety?

Anxiety can be debilitating in a test-taking situation, but it’s important to remember that not all students experience test anxiety. There is a story about a first-year teacher, who entered his room on test day and jokingly said  to his seventh-grade class,

“Well, is everybody nervous?”

A student raised his hand and replied, “I’m nervous that I’m not nervous!”

Some students experience test anxiety; others do not. And there are students for whom tests occasion a modicum of anxiety that not only does not inhibit their performance, but actually enhances it! The type of test anxiety we are concerned with here is the kind that severely impedes a student’s ability to perform on a standardized test. But how do you know when a student has this kind of anxiety? There are several things that might tip you off:

  • Tardiness on test day
  • Absenteeism on test day
  • Crying
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Jitteriness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sweating
  • Distractibility
  • Inability to focus
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension

Of course, one of the biggest clues is a student who demonstrates knowledge and understanding of content via his or her daily classroom performance, but falls apart when confronted with a standardized test that is assessing the same skills.

Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies that can be taught to students suffering from test anxiety that can help them manage it. These strategies, however, should be routinely practiced by students in order for them to be effective. There is little point in modeling positive self-talk five minutes before a test and then expecting that it will be of any use. Stayed tuned to our next few posts for tips on reducing test anxiety.

A Note to the Test Givers
Students are not the only people who experience test anxiety. Teachers, administrators, and other school personnel responsible for administering standardized tests can also experience anxiety around test time as pressure to increase student achievement mounts. While this is understandable, it’s important to remember that anxiety is contagious. Anxious educators can often, inadvertently, create anxious students. Be mindful of your demeanor when administering the test. Create a relaxed, positive environment. Smile and maintain your sense of humor. Know that you have done your best to prepare your students and your best is all that you can do!

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