Test Anxiety Remedy

I know I posted on this sort of thing before, but I happened to see this U of C research about how to effectively relieve test/learning anxiety through a simple technique over the winter break and saved it. With Week 4 practically upon us and so the first round of tests for a lot of classes, I thought it would be worth posting. It’s a different study than the one I first posted about, but the findings are the same:

A team of University of Chicago psychological scientists found that high school and college students who jotted down their worries for 10 minutes before exam time avoided choking under the pressure. In fact, they performed markedly better.

In a study released Thursday in the journal Science, Sian Beilock and Gerardo Ramirez asked half a class of freshmen facing their first final exams to write down their concerns about the upcoming test while other students journaled about an unrelated topic.

To a teen, students who wrote about their stress scored as well or better than those who didn’t.

Check out the rest (including suggestions for why it works) here.

Test Anxiety

I’m sure that some of you gave an old-fashioned Midterm Exam–I saw the results in my students appearance, demeanor, and preparation this week and last–tired, bedraggled, anxious, and the rest. I would guess that more than a few of you talk about test anxiety (and how to cope with it, if not beat it).

If you haven’t you might be interested in some of the research surrounding it (and if you’ve never read Claude Steele’s piece on college students (which is related somewhat indirectly to test anxiety, but turned me on to the whole topic as something that I had to get incorporated into my curriculum if I was going to prepare HW students for success in higher ed (and elsewhere) to the best of my ability), stop wasting your day with my jibber jabber and read something GREAT!).

And if you plan to debrief your students about their experiences (and anxiety) while taking the exam (surely there is one student in your room who will think, “I’m just a bad test taker” at some point while you discuss the exam or its results), you might want to show them THIS piece, titled, “Four Reasons Why You Choke Under Pressure (And How To Avoid Them)”:

So, why do we choke under pressure? A lot of the explanation can be boiled down to the fact that, under pressure, the prefrontal cortex (the very front part of our brain that sits over our eyes) stops working the way it should.

This can result in a lack of brain power available for demanding thinking and reasoning tasks (e.g., taking a test, responding to on-the-spot questions to a client) because worries about messing up co-opt these brain resources. However, under pressure, we also often try and control what we are doing in an attempt to ensure success. Too much attention to the details of activities that are best left outside conscious awareness (e.g., in golf, too much attention devoted to how your elbow is bent as you take a 3-foot putt you have holed thousands of times in the past) can disrupt a fluent performance and make you miss the hole.

The good news is that knowing the science behind why we choke gives us the power to wield the right tools to ensure success under stress. In her book Choke, author Sian Beilock provides a toolbox of tips to prevent the dreaded choke, but here are a few to get you started…

Go to the article to see what they are.