It’s fairly common for students to feel comfortable with an assignment’s requirements but still struggle on exam day. Here are some signs of test anxiety and how to tackle it!
The main sign: Discrepancies between homework and exams. This is the most common indicator of test anxiety. When students do well with homework assignments but receive low scores on exams, it generally means the test-taking situation itself is causing some sort of impact on their overall performance. The good news is that students in these situations understand the core concepts that are being taught, which should be seen as a positive achievement! The struggle comes from the test-taking anxiety when the clock is ticking down. When time becomes a factor, test anxiety increases (especially for difficult subjects that require multi-step approaches). The obvious one is – you guessed it – math. Still, test anxiety is common for students in other subjects as well, including language arts. After all, writing an entire essay under a time limit can be a nerve-wracking experience! So what can students do to prepare?
1. Timed practice. We can’t stress this enough – if you know a test is going to be timed (like most are), practice with a time limit. As we’ve discussed on other blogs, an easy way for parents to help is to offer to be a test “proctor” and keep track of time. This is especially helpful for students preparing for standardized exams like the SAT/ACT where each section (including practice exams) has a predefined time limit for completion. A “mock exam” is a great way to get used to working under pressure! But what if your student gets to a difficult question that doesn’t make sense? The best thing to do is…
2. Budget your time. If a student is told that a math test will consist of 20 questions over the course of an hour time limit, that leaves 3 minutes per question. It’s good to do this mental math before taking exams, especially when it comes to tests with multiple questions. If you finish a question quickly, you’ll know you’ve banked some time to spare! Other questions might be difficult, though – so what should students do when they reach their “per question” time limit?
3. Stick to the tried-and-true test taking hacks. Test-taking techniques never fail! When it comes to any test, students should always answer the questions they know first and skip difficult questions. This method ensures maximizing your score with easy questions while making sure any extra time can be devoted to the more challenging ones. A common hangup is when students become preoccupied with a difficult question early in an exam and spend too much time on it (only to miss out on points they could have scored on easier questions later in the test).