Comments on Test Anxiety

If I had a nickel for every time a parent has begun a conversation with the words, ‘My child is a bad test taker,’ I would be much richer.

Poor test performance goes hand in hand with learning challenges. It is also a byproduct of the stressful academic environment that students find themselves in today.

For the student with, e.g., dyslexia or ADD, a standard test is often a recipe for failure because it requires a thought process and problem-solving approach that doesn’t work for the student. Unfortunately, the upset surrounding exams is completely justified for many other reasons, reasons that have little to do with learning challenges, including:

– poor instructions from teachers/parents on how to study.

– inadequate preparation in the classroom for a given test topic.

– overreliance on study sheets to prepare for tests.

– use of ‘canned’ exams downloaded from the internet (esp. for AP courses); these tests often don’t reflect the actual content of classroom lectures and/or homework.

Given the many stressors surrounding tests, it is not a surprise that all types of students feel some anxiety and insecurity about exam-taking.

In my work with students, I put the issue of test anxiety front and center as something to actively address and treat. My students are taught to take control of exams, to prepare well and to study hard enough to feel confident. The completion of a study sheet represents the beginning of a study session, not the session itself. Understanding and learning the material is the goal. The better grade hopefully follows.

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