With classes starting at Murray State University and in schools across the region, it's an exciting time but can also be a time for worry. Test anxiety is relatively common, says Dr. Michael Bordieri of the MSU Department of Psychology, affecting about 20% of students from elementary age to medical students. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with Dr. Bordieri on strategies for dealing with test anxiety.
There isn't an official diagnosis for test anxiety, but if affects a relatively large number of students. It's somewhat more common in females than males, which is consistent with most anxiety disorders. And it can have a detrimental effect on test performance.
1 - Practice
There are some simple solutions for shaking off the anxiety. First is practice. People who have test anxiety tend to push away studying and instead procrastinate to avoid the feeling, thus making them approach the test less prepared and making anxiety inevitably worse. Preparation is key, Dr. Bordieri says. The more you practice in advance, the more comfortable you'll be in performance. He recommends getting more practice taking exams. Make your own tests or ask a parent to help. In his classes, he gives quizzes every day. No one is enthusiastic about this in the beginning, he says, but by the end of the semester some students are thankful since it takes away the pressure of having to know everything one time. By making testing a regular part of class it makes for better performance in the final exam.
2 - Prioritize
Time management can be an issue for high school and college students who are trying to balance working and studying. Prioritize and making the best of the time available. Take little study breaks throughout the day. We often think of studying as blocking off several hours, Dr. Bordieri says, however research in psychology suggests smaller and spaced practice or study sessions tend to lead to greater mastery than one big study session. Find time when available.
3 - Communicate
Whether you're anxious about your test or not, speak with your professor. This can be helpful for getting information and helping guide success on tests. Getting to know professors can help make you feel more comfortable in the classroom in general. Dr. Bordieri says that almost always students come too late, near the end of the semester when there aren't many options left. Time for extra credit may be gone and the ability to change study habits might help in the future but not in class at that time. Many teachers prefer to speak with students early when more options are available.
4 - Relax
Dr. Bordieri recommends practicing relaxation. Take the first few moments or five minutes of the exam and just breathe. Close your eyes, scan through the test, but don't jump right in. It's often the simplest things that can be the biggest help, he says.
Dr. Michael Bordieri is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Murray State University and a clinical supervisor at the MSU Psychological Center, which is staffed by graduate students in clinical psychology providing therapy and assessment services under the supervision of licensed clinical psychologists. The center is open to all. Call for hours at 270-809-2504.
Our next discussion with Dr. Bordieri will be September 8.