Whether it’s the CMTs, the SATs or a middle school math final, the doctors at Willows Pediatrics know that test-taking can cause anxiety in students. In fact, children who are anxious might even perform below their true abilities when taking a test.
According to Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist at the University of Chicago and the aother of Choke: What The Secrets Of The Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, “when students are anxious, their worries use up some of their working memory, leaving fewer cognitive resources to devote to the test.”
The good news is that test anxiety can be easily relieved. A recent article in Time magazine said that having students spend about 10 minutes prior to taking a test writing about their thoughts and feelings—a practice called expressive writing—proved helpful. Students’ test scores significantly improved after engaging in expressive writing.
Another writing exercise asked students to write briefly about something they valued and to describe why it matters to them. This values-affirmation exercise also improved test performance.
In addition, it’s important for students to learn how to prepare for a test. Instead of just reading over notes, they should practice answering questions in the same way they will be posed on a test. As one psychologist in the Time magazine article said, “You would never just read over your lines and show up on the opening night of the school play, right?” It’s the same thing with test-taking.
Finally, never underestimate the power of deep breathing. Relaxing before a test by focusing on breathing and on tensing then relaxing muscle groups can have a huge effect in reducing test anxiety!
If your student has severe test-taking anxiety, please feel free to talk make an appointment for a behavioral consultation. We can also refer our patients to mental-health professionals when necessary.