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Helping Adults With Test Anxiety

We’ve all been there. Whether it was at school, for a job, for your driver’s license, or sometimes even at a checkout when the card scanner just keeps asking questions! Test anxiety creeps in for just about everybody.

The adults who come to learn at our local literacy councils are no exception. Depending on their experiences, personality, confidence, and practice, test anxiety may be a serious obstacle to reaching their goals. As a tutor, you can help. 

The first step is one you are probably already taking – practice! As a learner studies, does practice activities, and makes gains, tests will become easier and confidence will grow. Both of these are a great start to conquering those jitters.

Practice can also include practicing for a specific type of test. If you know your student needs a specific licensing test or style of test, use some lesson time to take those practice tests. Becoming familiar with the format of the test, practicing with some coaching on strategies for that type of test, and taking the time to discuss what to expect will help prevent fear of the unknown. If at all possible try one in a similar environment as the real test will take place.

According to Cecelia Downs with Brown University, it also helps to break down test taking fears into categories of “founded fears” and “unfounded fears.” Not only does this help the learner lay some fears to rest about things that won’t or can’t happen, it also helps find specific concerns you can address together. For example, a founded fear might be that they won’t be prepared. You can tackle that! An unfounded fear about others opinions being tied up in the test results can be laid to rest. 

Spend some time reassuring the student the perfection isn’t expected. In fact, a perfect score on some tests is very rare. Rather, focus on the underlying goal for the test. Is the test in order to get a job promotion that requires an 80%? Discuss how those who get the promotion do so whether the score is 80% or 100%. Helping set reasonable expectations can alleviate some pressure and gain some perspective.

Right before the test, don’t focus on cramming. Instead, focus on good calming techniques and affirmations. It is pretty unlikely you will shove the best information in an hour before the test, but eating a snack and taking deep breaths will keep your thoughts collected. That time can also be used to arrive early and settle in.

If your student has anxiety during assessments that are part of the curriculum or program you are teaching, it is useful to help them understand why you give the assessment and how it can help you support them in test taking skills. Further, you can reassure them that your opinions of them are in no way based on these assessments. For more tips from experienced professionals, check out this video!

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Thanks for visiting the website of Adult Learning Alliance of Arkansas.

124 W Capitol Ave, Suite 1000

Little Rock, AR 72201

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