Feeling anxious before a test is fairly normal. The more there is riding on the results of that test, the more worked up the student may become. This is as true for kindergarteners as college students and working professionals. Forbes notes that most people focus on the academic side of prepping. However, they may not spend enough attention on mindful test prep, and how that affects nerves on test day.
This is a common problem identified by educators and psychologists alike. Here’s what the experts had to say about how it affects test preparations.
“Testing could produce a lot of anxiety for children and even adults,” says Dr. Virginia Boga, an adolescent psychologist with a practice in New York. She tells Parentology, “The more confident a child feels, the less likely they [are to] feel anxious when taking a test.”
Dr. Janyne A. McConnaughey, a retired educator who taught all levels from preschool to graduate school, shares that students often feel especially out of their depth in math courses. While teaching math to “math-phobic students,” she often saw many capable people break down under test conditions.
“When talking to these students, I almost always found their anxiety was rooted in childhood experiences with either teachers or parents,” she tells us. “The test was a trigger, which [caused] them to return to those experiences — and drown in the emotions. The current fear that not passing the test … would prevent them from graduating just added a new layer.”
Logan Thompson, the author of Beyond the Content, teaches mindfulness to students to help them prepare for tests. He believes that this approach allows students to have an awareness of the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that may arise before a test. These are the factors that ultimately cause distractions.
He identifies anxiety as one of the most troubling emotions students must encounter and overcome. For mindful test prep to be effective, however, students must understand that anxiety is not binary. Instead, it occurs on a gradient. This helps them to identify small changes signaling trouble. Students can then control these warning signs before they snowball into full-blown anxiety.
“It’s not enough for a student to just notice critical thoughts,” Thompson tells Parentology. “The student must be able to notice those thoughts without blaming themselves for having them. Such nonjudgment is a radical act of kindness, necessary for growth. If we consider that a test is simply a situation that calls upon someone to mentally perform well, what situation can’t be benefited by mindfulness?”
Thompson believes that there is no such thing as a bad test-taker. He acknowledges that many brilliant people who know the content of the test do poorly anyway. However, like Forbes, he attributes poor performance to “the other side of test prep.” In short, academic preparation is simply not enough.
A US Institute of Education Sciences study confirms that this is true. The study found that mindfulness remains an effective tactic to combat stress and test anxiety. In fact, the institute recommends this important tool for more than students. It also believes that embracing mindfulness can help to combat stress and burnout for teachers in America.