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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Helping Your Students Tackle Test-Taking Anxiety
Sharon Pettey-Taylor

Anxiety related to test-taking (written or oral) can be the greatest threat to student academic achievement and has the potential to limit future possibilities for advancement, contributing to all sorts of issues related to impaired self-esteem and unwarranted fears.

Counselors advise us to watch out for students exhibiting physical abnormalities such as nervousness, irritability, stomach aches, shortness of breath, headaches, too much yawning, perspiring, dry mouth and even vomiting.

As for the psychological signals--observe students who often display an attitude of uncaring as to whether they pass or fail. Many race through the test, neglecting to read directions carefully or to take the time to organize their thoughts before putting them on paper. Blanking out on previously well-learned, factual information is also commonplace with anxiety-ridden students.

Since testing (particularly, standardized) in all its forms remains a mainstay of student assessment, as teachers it is only natural that we feel compelled to make every effort to recognize the signs of this malfunction and minimize its risks. Fortunately, this kind of anxiety can be alleviated with proper guidance. In order to avert a host of frustrational consequences resulting from ignoring obvious triggers, we can plan to prepare for exam anxiety (which is more prevalent than many teachers and students have come to realize).

A major factor in combating anxiety is being prepared to implement some preventive measures such as positive self-affirmations, dietary changes, muscle relaxation techniques, the proper amount of rest/sleep and exercise, and even possibly self-hypnosis.     

Given that our teacher-created testing design and other formative materials have been fairly well-communicated over time, we can simply model unflinching confidence that our student's final assessment data will be favorably reflected.

To achieve a higher degree of success relating to student outcomes, the following suggestions have proven to be beneficial in demonstrating test-taking strategies:

  • Provide opportunities for your students to monitor their own learning goals on a consistent basis; and
  • Inform students’ families when periodic testing will occur and how they can participate.

A realistic approach in “assessing learning” and in alleviating unnecessary anxiety can be summed up by choosing teaching strategies and instructional tools that not only target our learning goals, but also encompass multiple sources of knowledge and information-gathering related to our subject matter.

Therefore, in total agreement with the Professional Teaching Standards, using the results of assessments to guide instruction;  plan[ning] more effective ways of teaching subject matter concepts [and] determin[ing] when and how to revisit content that has been taught will ultimately prove to be most successful.

Assessing Learning
. Developing as a Professional.
The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.

Google:  Test Anxiety


Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.



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