|Test Anxiety (the following information is loosely
based on that of John Zbornik and Ellen Freedman)
Two major components seem to comprise test anxiety.
The cognitive aspect centers on worry which may
include poor self-image, feelings of failure, or
The emotional aspects center on somatic
disturbances such as stomach upset and headaches.
Symptoms of nervousness such as shaking hands,
sweating palms, dry mouth, shallow breathing, heart
palpitations, and elevated blood pressure may also be
Behavioral responses may vary from focusing on one
item, "checking out," hyper sensitivity to
noise or other environmental stimuli, and
Assessing test anxiety should include, but not be
limited to, getting a history from the student and
parents, teachers, etc. and using rating scales.
Test Anxiety Assessment (based somewhat on John
- What kinds of things happen in your body while
you are taking a test?
- How is your breathing?
- How does your stomach feel?
- How does your head feel?
- Are you able to study the night before a test?
- How nervous do you feel when starting at test?
- Does the level of nervousness change and you
progress through the test? How?
- Does your mind ever just go blank before or
during a test?
- Even when you have studied a lot, do you still
- Do you sometimes get stuck on a question or
problem and can’t go on?
- Do you have trouble finishing tests?
- Does the subject matter of the test make a
difference in your feelings while you are taking
- What kind of things do you think about when you
are taking a test?
- What thoughts go through your mind?
After a student has answered questions that are
consistent with test anxiety, the next step is to help
the student try to deal with the response.
[Note: The above questionnaire, with room for
responses, can be printed here. .]
Suggestions to help students cope with math test
Teach students how to study for math tests by
making note cards, working problems from classwork,
homework, tests and quizzes.
Help students construct practice exams or practice
tests that are available in books or through teachers.
Use other means to help the student
"desensitize" by practicing test-like
Give positive reinforcement for good work and
gentle correction for mistakes.
Teach students how to work backwards and/or
eliminate answers on multiple-choice tests.
Help students practice doing the questions or
problems in three waves: Easy, medium, and hard so they can maximize the
Teach students about the physiology of test anxiety
and to not be distracted by body responses.
Instruct students to eat meals with both
carbohydrates and protein prior to the test.
Instruct students to try to exercise just enough to
become a little bit tired prior to entering the
testing situation (It lessens the affect of adrenaline
caused by anxiety).
Help the students learn to have productive
self-talk (rather than destructive self-talk).
"My job is to do the best I can on this test
Help students increase their ability to focus on
the task of taking the test and every time attention
wanders to refocus.