As an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I am able to participate in monthly webinars lead by education experts across the U.S. This month, I listened to Barb Sapir from Test Prep/San Francisco and Test Prep/NY discuss her program for working with students to help reduce the stress of test taking - focused on the ACT and SAT for college admittance.
While, I don't work with college students, I felt this was of value and many of her tips are helpful for middle school and high school students that have occasional test anxiety and do not qualify for test taking accommodations. She provided many mindset tools and test taking strategies and also encouraged each student to understand their learning style: Kinesthetic, Reading/Writing, Auditory or Visual.
Concerns about not having enough time to complete the test and overall anxiety about taking a test were the two main issues from all the consultants polled for this webinar. One way to help in this area is to develop a Personal Plan that goes beyond basic test taking strategies (go with your first thought...) and encourages the student to commit to a method of study (it could be in a group, with a tutor, on own) and parents can help the student to identify a specific place in the house (or library, local cafe) as their test study location.
Students also need to understand what material they need to master. Many middle school and high school students spend too much time studying what they already know (or find easy) and save the more challenging material to right before the test or quiz. Ms. Sapir also stated many of the students that come to her for consultation need help with time management when taking a test and most often this is simply coaching the child on speed reading techniques. Reading speed is the main reason students have difficulty completing a test - it is not reading comprehension or their lack of knowing the material.
Most students polled for her presentation answered they "just hope for the best" when taking a test, even when anxiety has hindered their past performances. Her presentation went beyond "hope for the best" and offered easy tips for students to try including breathing techniques, writing down/journaling their concerns and committing to a positive mindset.
Lastly, she spoke of many mindfulness techniques that students of all ages may practice leading up to a test or even stopping during the exam for a 15 second - 1 minute mindfulness break when they feel their anxiety level rising. Even though I don't sit for exams anymore, I found many of her points helpful for everyday life stresses or dealing with my own children's anxiety around test taking too.