Test Anxiety: What I Learned From My Students

kid-taking-a-test2It doesn’t matter how smart you are—test anxiety can get the best of anyone. However, you can outsmart test anxiety with a simple plan of attack: Confidence!

I know it sounds trite but confidence is the key to overcoming so many different kinds of obstacles, including scary test anxiety. This fact was never more evident than when I recently proctored an exam for a few students: some were visibly stressed out, second-guessing their answers, and physically exhausted while others took the test willingly and were even excited to show the graders what they knew.

A common misconception about test anxiety is that the student is anxious because they don’t know the information presented. Although there may be some questions the student won’t know, the underpinnings of test anxiety mostly come from the fact that the student is extremely intuitive and understands the pressure riding on the exam. Test anxiety is less about concerns over content mastery and more about the underlying pressure to be perfect.

In general, I’ve found that students who remain calm, clear, and understand the fact that nothing in life is perfect, including a test, do better overall on an exam. Why? Well, they simply don’t psych themselves out. On the other hand, students who realize the repercussions, no matter how big or small, of failing an exam (or simply just not doing as well as they want) are less likely to do the best because their emotional response to the unknown clouds their ability to focus and power-through.

When I saw some of these students excited, almost chomping at the bit, to the take the exam, I watched as their ability to use logic, deductive reasoning, and comprehend what skill the question was attempting to test helped them keep their rationale and their cool. I took a mental note for myself. At some point in my own academic career, I realized that each test would affect my grade and that my grades would, in turn, affect my ability to go to the next level of education. When I got to college and then law school, it was not only my GPA that was of concern but now my promissory notes. Subsequently, more pressure ensued and more anxiety reared its ugly head. So as I sat next to these students who flew through a difficult exam with ease, I had an ‘ah ha’ moment myself: I realized I needed to find my confidence once again. It was a little reminder of a bigger lesson: learning is a two-way street–students learn from their teachers and teachers can always learn from their students.

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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