Sixteen to 20% of students deal with test anxiety, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. And it’s no secret that test anxiety can be the difference between a student passing or failing a test.
Studies have shown that test anxiety can be more detrimental to certain students over others. A student with untreated and severe test anxiety may continue to perform poorly despite thorough studying.
The symptoms of test anxiety can be hard to notice, especially in individual students. Here are ways teachers can lower their students’ test anxiety and help them excel at test-taking.
Spot the Symptoms as Soon as Possible
Symptoms of test anxiety include:
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
While teachers should not always be relied upon to notice these sometimes subtle symptoms in the classroom, there is one big symptom that teachers can zero in on.
Students who have a history of low test scores may be suffering. Teachers can ask those students a few questions pertaining to test anxiety. For example: how do they feel before, during and after taking a test? Do they experience any debilitating or reoccurring symptoms?
This will allow teachers to take the next step to alleviate their anxiety.
Teach Breathing Exercises
Anxiety can cause shortness of breath – so one of the best ways to decrease anxiety is to take deep, measured breaths; otherwise known as mindful breathing.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that students who practice mindful breathing techniques have lower test anxiety than students who don’t practice mindful breathing techniques.
Mindful breathing only takes five minutes per day. This can be practiced sitting, standing, eyes opened or closed, or even as you’re walking into the exam hall.
A student with test anxiety can determine when they experience symptoms and practice mindful breathing at that specific point.
Here’s how to practice mindful breathing in five easy steps:
- Find a comfy and relaxed position
- Make sure your back is upright but not tight
- Breathe from your chest or abdomen
- Tune into the rhythm of your breath
- Do it for five minutes
Mindful breathing can be a challenge for hyperactive students who have higher anxiety levels than others. Exercises can be aided with sensory items like fidget toys and weighted blankets. These items can give students the quiet movements they need to help channel their anxiety and stay focused on learning activities.
Create a Space That Isn’t Intimidating
Teachers can reduce test anxiety by rearranging their classroom layout.
Some evidence shows that the placement of objects in the classroom can affect test scores. For example, test anxiety can be heightened because of clutter, or students feeling trapped or cramped in a small space. A simple change of scenery can be the difference between students passing or failing a test.
Manipulate your classroom layout to mimic a relaxation room filled with comfortable seating, calming sensory devices, and interactive lighting.
Studies have shown that inadequate lighting can lead to eye strain and hyperactivity in students. Use lightbulbs that mimic daylight to keep your students focused.
Or, upgrade your space by adding soundproofing equipment to reduce outside distractions your students may hear in the classroom. Many portable partitions and display panels are designed to absorb sound and create privacy – perfect for test taking.
Lowering any distractions your students have in your space can have a positive impact on your students’ test scores in the future.
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