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Classroom, Home, and Tests – Different Experiences, Different Skills

Yesterday, I helped a new student understand some of the difficulties she is experiencing, and I wanted to share this here. The Classroom: Studying in class is like taking a guided tour. If you trust your guide (the teacher,) you can follow into unknown territory, with an open mind. As you are exposed to new things you can ask questions, experience new activities, and be guided out of trouble if you get lost. In the classroom, your responsibility is to follow the teacher’s guidance, and notice when you lose track. (You will lose track. We all do. The only question is when!) Some examples from my students, of how they know they’re lost:  I’m singing a song in my head I’m thinking about my sandwich It seems as if the teacher in talking in a foreign language I’m beating myself up – “I’m a looser”, “I’ll never get it”   So this is the First Classroom Skill: Am I following the lesson, or am I in my head? The Second Classroom Skill:... read more

Test Anxiety Tips and Techniques

It's test day. You've studied hard and you feel pretty good about what you've learned. You feel prepared for this test. As your teacher passes out tests, your palms get sweaty and cold. Your head feels hot all of a sudden. You notice that it's harder to take a deep breath. And while you could recite the periodic table of elements without any problem ten minutes earlier, your mind feels as blank as the whiteboard at the front of the classroom.   What happened?   Test anxiety is what happened, and it's more common than you may think! Most student struggle with test anxiety at some point in their academic careers. It might happen every time to you take a test, or it might happen before an especially important test- like an AIMS or SOL test. Perhaps you only feel test anxiety during an SAT, AP exam, or semester finals. No matter how often it happens, seeing a big fat "D" (or worse!) on a test when you KNEW the material can be devastating. Fortunately,... read more

Halloween is past, can you see the law school final freight train headed your way?

For Freshlaws (first year law students) the flood of information and mind altering Socratic method classroom discussions often result in an overwhelming feeling of concern as Halloween passes and finals loom in a month or so. Law school finals are like nothing most students experience in undergrad because they are often all or nothing and the resulting grades have such a massive effect on career choices. With the best law firms aiming at the top ten percent of law students by GPA and internships starting after first year, each exam carries enormous weight.   So, in November law students must refine their studying to bring tremendous focus to upcoming exams. The time has come to bring outlines up-to-date and edit them. Review the other students in your study group to cut out slackers and focus on those with the same intense drive. If you feel weak in any subject, it is time to consider seeking out a tutor to give you the one on one advantage that is not... read more

Avoiding "the freeze..." or how to handle Test Stress and Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam: First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically over-stimulated by the adrenaline. When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding at all. We can actually know most of... read more

Avoiding the "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline. That makes it hard to focus.   When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding... read more

Avoiding the "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is. The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems. Does that sound at all familiar? Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently. When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in. We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline. That makes it hard to focus.   When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems. Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system. A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level of understanding... read more

The "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is.  The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems.   Does that sound at all familiar?  Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently.  When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in.  We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline.  When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems.  Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system.  A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level... read more

The "freeze," or how to handle Test Stress / Exam Anxiety

How to avoid the "freeze" during a quiz, test, or exam:   First, let's talk about what "the freeze" is.  The freeze is usually a sort of momentary panic, that makes it very hard to concentrate and focus and solve problems.   Does that sound at all familiar?  Many students experience it at least once in their lives, and some students face it frequently.  When we have a moment of panic, our adrenaline kicks in.  We go into "fight or flight" mode, and certain parts of the brain are chemically overstimulated by the adrenaline.  When we are in "fight or flight" mode, it is very hard to concentrate and do challenging problems like math and science problems.  Sometimes it takes a long time to calm down and get the adrenaline out of our system.  A strong panic can wipe out our best thinking skills for an entire test period, and give us a score that does not represent our actual level... read more

Testing Nerves

When my kids express their concerns about failing a test I ask them to stop talking, take a deep breath and ask them to recall a test they took 2 years ago in the second week of November. Most of the time my kids will look at the ground, ponder for a moment or two and respond with "I don't remember". Then I ask them if they feel they have had a successful academic career to which they answer "yes".    The point I'm trying to make is that being overly nervous about taking tests is wasted energy. If you are confident that you have had and will continue to have a successful academic career then have the same confidence that you will do well on this test.   Don't misunderstand me. I believe that a small amount of nervousness is a good thing. If we didn't have an inkling of nerves life would be somewhat dull. And if my kids expect to take a test and pass with flying colors without proper studying and preparation then they should be... read more

Math anxiety? Believe me, you are not bad at math!

So many students that I have worked with start the first sit down meeting with "I really don't like math" , "I have math anxiety" , "I am bad at math", or any combination of those feelings.   I have to say that I when I hear that it makes me mad. Not at the student, of course, but at an education system that creates stress and anger towards one of the most important subject a person can learn!   Everyone should have basic literacy and numeracy skills, because without them the world is a much harder place. Have to pay pills? Don't want to get ripped off buying a car? Need to find out how much tax or interest you might have to pay? Need to verify if what you got paid was right? These situations, and so many more, require basic math skills! So, like I said, it makes me mad that students are not being given one of the most basic skills that they really need: a love of mathematics!   Okay, so you really don't have to... read more

On Multiple Choice

Most people that I know feel that multiple choice questions on a test are a double-edged sword. On one hand, the right answer is somewhere right in front of you; you just have to pick it. On the other hand, multiple choice questions will do everything within their power to confuse you and lead you away from that right answer. Here are a few of my strategies for getting it right: *50/50 - Does anyone watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire anymore? I know I don't, but I do remember it. So, for those of us who either watch or remember it, think about the 50/50 lifeline. They'd eliminate two wrong answers out of the four potential choices. This is a great place to start! Eliminate anything that you know to be blatantly wrong. If possible, I like to physically cross it out on my test (in pencil, in case I change my mind). That way, you know what you can ignore when selecting your answer. *Absolute words - This means words that are superlative or absolute, like "always,"... read more

Text anxiety

Text anxiety is probably the #1 killer when it comes to good grades! Understanding how you take a test and knowing how it will go is a bigger advantage than you might think. Consider this, students often perform more poorly because they make simple mistakes on tests...especially MATH TESTS. And simple mistakes are made usually when a student is rushing through their test or feels the pressure of a rush (real or imagined). The best way to deal with test anxiety is to talk to people. Talk to teachers and let them know: believe it or not, they're people too and they may sympathize or have suggestions. Talk to parents and ask for tutoring. Talk to other students and see if they experience the same thing (strength in numbers helps self-esteem). I know all this because I was a successful academic coach and these tactics work. Practicing with a tutor is probably supreme above all, so make sure somebody can be there for you. There is no shame in tutoring - Aristotle tutored Alexander... read more

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