How to Help Students Overcome Test Anxiety
By Carol Henry
Historically, standardized testing has always been a widely used tool in schools around the world. However, this method isn’t exactly perfect, and states such as Georgia have began lowering the number of tests due to the overwhelming pressure it causes among students. The expectations are high when it comes to standardized tests, as they’re used to objectively measure a school’s overall performance.
Indeed, this pressure to perform exceedingly well can cause students to develop test anxiety. According to the University of South Florida’s Nathaniel von der Embse, this is a condition where a student not only fears the content of the examination itself, but also the consequences of their test scores.
Test anxiety can prevent students from performing to the best of their ability, so how can we help them overcome this?
Foster a Growth Mindset
A big reason why students become anxious when taking standardized tests or even regular exams is because they base their academic success on their results. One failure can make them feel like giving up. While teaching them the curriculum is imperative, cultivating a growth mindset is equally important. As our writer Allison Segeren shared, this will keep them motivated to learn even during trying times. This can be enforced through personalizing lessons, and offering remedial classes for students experiencing any difficulties. The key here is to help them understand that they’re not defined by one test score, but by their perseverance and determination.
Implement School-Wide Mental Health Interventions
Many students first experience mental health problems in school. This means institutions should consider creating prevention programs and offering counseling and other services to struggling students. Psychologists at Maryville University have found links between mental health and learning ability, which institutions need to address. This connection is especially crucial for students, as their attitudes towards learning and success are still being formed. If proper action is taken towards preventing and treating mental health problems, schools could be facing a never-ending cycle of test anxiety and low test scores.
Incorporate Visual Learning
Students will feel better equipped to answer a test when provided with more study materials. Although traditional resources like textbooks and worksheets are tried-and-tested methods, visual learning is an innovative method that can be introduced into classrooms. True enough, a study published in the Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications Journal found that visualizations, such as pictures, graphs, and diagrams resonate with students better. Moreover, students retain information much better from visual learning.
Prepare Students with Test-Taking Strategies
Test anxiety can cause some students to practice unhealthy study habits like pulling all-nighters, consuming too much caffeine, and procrastinating. To combat this, schools can champion test-taking strategies that will help students feel more at ease — from crafting a study schedule to practicing positive self-talk and teaching relaxation techniques. Students must be aware that they can manage their test anxiety with the proper tools.
Students place great emphasis on their test scores. After all, they determine a big chunk of their grades, but they shouldn’t feel anxious when taking them. Education should be exciting and engaging, and test anxiety takes those aspects away. Fortunately, these small yet meaningful additions to the curriculum will help them study with sheer determination, as well as help them go reach new heights as they learn more about how to deal with high pressure situations like taking tests.
About the author
Having two teachers as parents, Carol was taught the value of education at a very young age. She worked as a social studies teacher before she decided to devote her time as a freelance education writer. When she’s not busy reading up the latest news about learning, she enjoys going on a hike with her dog, Milo.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.