Test Anxiety Goode-Pasfield Center for Learning & Teaching Fintel Library Beating the Saber Tooth Tiger!
What is Test Anxiety? • A type of performance anxiety; • Can be diagnosed as a “situational phobia” in the DSM-IV; • A testing situation that provokes the “flight or fight” response; • Doesn’t seem to have a logical reason; • May stem from childhood or other previous experiences.
Symptoms: • Nausea; • Sweating; • Rapid heart beat; • Tension – not being able to relax; • Mentally “freezing up”; • Going “blank”; • Feeling jittery; • Diarrhea; • Headache; • “Butterflies”.
Fight or Flight: • This physical and mental reaction to a test is the same automatic response that you would feel if you were a cave man/woman face-to-face with a saber-tooth tiger, only you: • Can’t run (or at least shouldn’t) • Can’t fight (who?) • Your body has no way to get rid of the pumping pent-up adrenaline; • So what does your body do?
Your Mind Takes Over: • Your brain takes “charge” to try to get you out of the “dangerous” situation; • Your brain goes “blank”, which causes you to finish faster, so you can leave ASAP; • You have negative thoughts; • You “give up” and leave; • And as soon as you are out of the room……
The Answers Come back! • As soon as you are able to leave the “dangerous” situation and relax, many of the answers that you thought you had forgotten come back to you!
So, we know… • That relaxing is a key to getting rid of the “fight or flight” symptoms (more about this later); What Else do we Know About Test Anxiety? • We know that negative thoughts create a vicious cycle of anxiety. • What are some negative thoughts?
Negative thoughts • I’m not good at this kind of test; • Why bother taking this test?; • What if I fail this test?; • I didn’t study this chapter; • This test is way too hard; • I might as well give up; • I never do well on multiple choice tests; • What if I fail this class?; • I studied and knew this yesterday!; • I hate this class!
Are There other causes? • Not preparing well for the test (study skills); • Not allowing enough time for study (time management);
SumMing up the problems: • Not relaxing during the test; • Having negative thoughts; • Not studying properly; • Poor time management.
What to do with thoughts: • Reframe them: • I studied and I know the material; • Everyone has to take this test; • I can fail this test and still pass; • I’ll just do my best on this part; • Other people will have trouble too; • Giving up guarantees an F; • I could repeat the class if necessary; • I need to relax so the answers will come back to me; • My feelings for this class don’t matter right now. • I’m not good at this kind of test; • Why bother taking this test?; • What if I fail this test?; • I didn’t study this chapter; • This test is way too hard; • I might as well give up; • What if I fail this class? • I studied and knew this yesterday!; • I hate this class!
Remember TFA: • Thoughts • Feelings • Actions • Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, which lead to negative actions/behaviors. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings, which lead to positive actions/behaviors. T F A
Relaxing During a Test: • If possible, try to exercise before a test; • Don’t arrive early and study; • Stop about every 10th question and relax; • Take deep breaths; • Close your eyes briefly; • Hang your arms by your side briefly; • Stretch your legs and relax; • Rotate your shoulders and your neck; • Put your pencil or pen down briefly; • Pay attention to your posture; • Practice reframing your thoughts.
Test Anxiety is Curable: Don’t give up! Keep working on test anxiety. It is one of the most curable forms of anxiety. • Takes about 3-4 months of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (about 6-8 sessions); • In extreme cases, medication can be prescribed.