Parent to Parent – Test Anxiety

Does this sound familiar?  

You took notes in class, you read the material, and you studied for hours; you knew the information inside and out. The test is placed in front of you, you look at the first question and your mind goes blank. You look at the second question, your mind is still blank.  You wonder if you studied the wrong chapter.  You may start to sweat, shake, feel nauseous, and maybe your heart feels like it is going to beat out of your chest.  The questions do not look familiar at all. Panic sets in, and once again, test anxiety has reared its ugly head.  

Regardless of the reasons a student may suffer from test anxiety, there are steps we can take to try to overcome our fear of tests. Do not let the fear of failure overwhelm you; work to have a positive attitude, and prepare yourself to do your best.

Test Day!!

I am not a psychologist, but I have fallen victim to test anxiety in the past. Even today when I have to take a test, especially if it is a timed test, I get very intimidated and panic sets in.  I am overcome by the fear of failure. When I feel I am not going to do well on something, my husband always tells me to be positive, so I jokingly tell him, “I am positive I am not going to do well”. It’s a mindset that I am struggling to break, and I know I’m not the only one.

My daughter struggles with test anxiety too. I have tried to help my daughter overcome it, but so far I have had little success.  When my daughter was in school, I could feel her anxiety when she had to take a big test and I felt helpless for her. She would get intimidated by other students who finished first and she did not like being the last one still taking the test.  I always told her that just because others finished first, it does not mean they did better on the test than she did. That never seemed to help as much as I hoped it would. My daughter and I are in an endless fight against test anxiety — we know we’re capable, but it never feels like we’re enough.

Our minds can play tricks on us, so having a positive attitude is important to combat it; if we do not do well on the test, then we can try harder next time. The test is also a wonderful guide to let us know what areas of the material we need to focus on and study more.  I am a self-proclaimed over-achiever, so I believe that failure is not an option for me. I have created this in my own mind and put tremendous pressure on myself, it’s not healthy and I work on improving myself on this everyday. I would stress all the time about tests and exams, believing that if I failed the world would end. Yet, when things didn’t go as well as I hoped, the world was still intact and the sun still came up the next day. Sometimes because of that, my failures felt good. They felt good because even though I had proof that I wasn’t perfect, the world still kept turning. In a way, it is relieving for me to fail. But then the next test date starts to get closer, and I start feeling anxiety all over again.

It’s Just a Test – Why Do I Feel So Anxious? 

According to experts, here are several reasons we have test anxiety: fear of failure, lack of preparation, poor test history, high pressure, and perfectionism.  Let’s look at each of these reasons.  

When it comes to fear of failure, Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”.   Nobody wants to fail, but if we learn from our failures, then they were not failures, they were opportunities to grow. 

What about lack of preparation? Maybe time did not allow us to prepare for a test as much as we had hoped.  If lack of time did not allow us to prepare, then we know we need to work on our time management skills.  

Poor test history – those previous bad test scores can occupy our minds; block them out!!  Those tests are in the past, so just focus on the test in front of you.  

And high pressure – are you putting the pressure on yourself or do you feel pressure from someone else? Is this pressure helpful for who you are and what you are doing? You are doing the best you can, work to accept it and relax. Your mind will be clearer if you are calm.

Finally, perfectionism. Remember, nobody is perfect!  We need to be realistic, if we knew everything then we would not need to go to school.  Striving to do our personal best is much more realistic than striving for perfection!   

SEL can help kids overcome test anxiety

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) can help students who suffer from test anxiety. Lessons taught in SEL such as self-talk, capturing and controlling thoughts, and learning the importance of sleep, rest, diet, and exercise, can all help students move past test anxiety and do well!  SEL also teaches students that they can grow their minds by developing a growth mindset; do not let a fixed mindset have you think you cannot pass the test! 

SEL has several delivery methods that make learning fun and is designed to engage students according to their age group, including our newest method of educational virtual reality games!  Our SEL curriculum allows teachers, counselors, and parents to track student’s performance results and progress.

From a Parent’s Perspective

In doing my research to write this blog, I talked to my daughter, my husband, and my son-in-law and asked for their feedback on their experience with test anxiety.  My son-in-law and my husband said they have never had test anxiety. 

Wait a minute, they have never had test anxiety?   What is that even like?  

Anxiety can impair anyone, despite how skilled they may be in their area of expertise. Anxiety can make it difficult to do a variety of things, from giving a speech, to a presentation, or playing in sports. Anxiety can sometimes get the best of us.  

Preparation is important when we take a test, and studying is key to preparation. But making sure we get enough rest and eat healthy meals is also important.  Here are some thoughts that I have found helpful for reducing my test anxiety.

  • Perfection is not the goal, doing your best is.
  • Push self-doubt and negative thoughts out of your mind.
  • Be prepared and ask for help when you need it.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Now let it out and open your eyes. Pick up your pen or pencil, have confidence in yourself and do your best!  You’ve got this! 

(Please feel free to post any tips you might have to help with test anxiety!!)

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