Tag Archives: test anxiety

Sitting for standardized tests often feels as charged and fraught with meaning as any big game or performance. Test takers are literally competing for scores which may have major implications for future educational opportunities. Yes, the test anxiety struggle is real. Expert coaching and perfect practice testing make a massive difference in the levels of anxiety test takers feel and, more importantly, how they respond to that stress in the moment. Unfortunately, small problems at the start of a test or test section have the potential to sabotage the whole exam: Getting lost or running late on the way to a test Forgetting an admissions ticket or acceptable ID or experiencing some other stressor at check-in Starting slow because you are tired, underfed, over-caffeinated, or insufficiently warmed up Coming out of a break distracted by good or bad news Countless tactical or strategic errors can lead to a weak start…

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Test anxiety can hurt test takers, sometimes literally. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America describes debilitating physical symptoms of test anxiety, ranging from headaches and excessive sweating, to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and light-headedness leading to full-blown panic attack. Nausea and gastrointestinal distress can also occur, which probably only exacerbates the emotional and cognitive toll. Clearly, test anxiety takes a toll on test performance… or does it? Psychologist Sigmund Tobias explored this very idea in a 1990 research paper titled Test Anxiety: Cognitive Interference or Inadequate Preparation? In that paper, he sought to review the differences between two interpretations accounting for the poor test performance of highly anxious students. The interference hypothesis asserts that test anxiety interferes with recall of prior learning in testing situations. The deficit hypothesis theorizes that lower test scores obtained by test anxious students are attributable to inadequate study habits or deficient test taking…

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For so many of us, test day comes as a relief. At last, we can complete that solemn task we worked weeks, perhaps even months, to master. But after the test, a different sort of stress creeps in. We are, for once, powerless to control out destinies. Instead, we must wait for our scores. How do you wait? Do you distract yourself in order to think of anything but those scores? Do you assume an air of calm, acknowledging that worrying won’t change a thing? Do you freak out and brood over all the worst-case scenarios?   We generally envy the cool customers, imagining that remaining unfazed by events beyond our control is the most adaptive stance to assume. Researchers from the University of California, Riverside discovered a more surprising connection between waiting and stress: “Participants who suffered through a waiting period marked by anxiety, rumination, and pessimism responded more…

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Tests are stressful, right? Complicated high-stakes tests can certainly be stressful, in the way that any influential moments in our lives demanding peak performance can be stressful. Unfortunately, anxiety impedes performance, which means many people freak out at exactly the moment they should remain calm and in control. What should you do when test anxiety strikes? First, consider objectively how ready you are for the task at hand. Find comfort in the fact that you prepared for the test you are taking. If you didn’t prepare, on the other hand, you have every reason to be nervous! Next, consider your options for stress relief. Some find solace in writing out their anxieties or adopting a power pose. Just knowing a variety of sophisticated ways to combat anxiety can alleviate it, but don’t overlook one of the most basic strategies: breathing. How is breathing linked to stress? Anxiety, according to Healthline,…

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American culture seems to celebrate the lucky break, the stroke of good fortune, the against-all-odds moment that turns certain defeat to sweet victory. Many dreamers eschew the hard work, confident that one epic act or second of serendipity can change everything for the better. No wonder casinos and lotteries are so popular! Yet, at the same time, we collectively revere those with a body of work, those who have proven their excellence again and again. One-hit wonders might enjoy momentary popularity, but we obsess over the question of the G.O.A.T., as in “Who is the greatest of all time?” Where in this spectrum of ephemeral to enduring success do tests like the SAT and ACT fit in? Critics have cried for decades over how much importance seems to be placed on a single morning of testing, as if a teen’s entire future depended on just the September ACT. Students in…

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When Frank Herbert wrote “Fear is the mind-killer” in the sci-fi epic Dune, he might have been thinking of academic performance. Research suggests that stress is so powerful that it can actually shrink the brain. Of course, outstanding test preparation instills massive confidence on test day, but if anxiety strikes, the solution may be a simple power pose. Researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap wondered if a person could fake it ’til she makes it, whether nonverbal displays govern how we think and feel about ourselves? They predicted that posing in high-power nonverbal displays would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes that would trigger elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk. Their findings in Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect NeuroendocrineLevels and Risk Tolerance confirmed their hypothesis: By simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her…

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