With Carihi’s assessment week approaching, school counsellors are seeing an influx of students dealing with test-induced anxiety, a common challenge faced by many high-school students the world over.
“People are stressed out,” says Barbara Preston, school counsellor at Carihi. “It’s crunch time; not just because of test anxiety, but because, ‘oh my gosh I’ve been procrastinating for the past three months and now [exam time] is here’.”
Test anxiety can develop for many reasons. A feeling of a lack of control, fear of alienation, being placed in too advanced a course for one’s ability and fear of not finishing the test in time are some common causes of test anxiety.
Preston says that it’s important that students understand that they will not always fare well in exams.
”Life is hard; life is a struggle. You can learn a lot from failing [a test] but this mark doesn’t really change who [you are].”
Despite the frequently-used term, ‘exam,’ not all students are facing a major test. “Next week is assessment week,” says Preston. “And there are a lot more people doing projects instead of some big stressful final exam.”
“We know there are other ways to show what you know, and this school has really moved towards that. There used to be a gym full of 100 desks and you’d have to sit there and [write] your test and there’s a lot of pressure in that. But school has changed, and there is more flexibility about how assessment takes place.”
In terms of handling test anxiety, preparation is key. As well as preparing for tests, however, a variety of relaxation strategies have been found beneficial to students struggling with test anxiety.
Visualizing yourself in a relaxing scene, deep breathing, and using thought-stopping techniques to control negative self-talk are a few of these strategies.
Preston says that a common misconception is that poor test-marks and lack of success are the same thing.
“Success for [one person] is going to be different than for another person. ”