Test Anxiety Guide Offers Calm Alternatives
Peg Kennedy, Development Support Specialist, Olney
exciting soft-bound workbook on test anxiety has been recently published
by Richard Cooper, PhD, founder of Center for Alternative Learning, and
Carole Champlin, MA, Program Director of Liberal Studies ad Psychology at
Harcum College in Pennsylvania.
anxiety is a serious issue among many students and needs to be approached
systematically in an attempt to help students overcome any problem they
may have with it.
is just the book to do it.
Cooper shares techniques from his new publication Test Anxiety Student Manual
with questionnaires and charts to help students become aware of their own
anxiety levels, the book can be used by an individual student alone or with the
assistance of a teacher, who can use the accompanying Teacher Guide as a
resource. Charts and forms help the
individual to analyze his own reactions in a variety of testing situations.
authors describe “everyday stressors” and ask the readers to rate their own
stressors. These are then ranked on the Everyday Stress Meter that is designed
similar to a speedometer. This is a great visual tool to help the students truly
get a good picture of their own anxiety levels. On the left: 0 = unbothered; 1 =
somewhat irritated; 2 = irritated; 3 angry; 4 very angry; 5 rage.
students will fill out a questionnaire, giving their own Stress History. It is
basically short answers, a couple of sentences. Another list is for major
stressors or crisis situations the students have experienced, and then places
that on the Crisis Meter, which measures: 1
= focused (peak performance); 2 = great strain but capable; 3 = freeze
momentarily then act; 4 = unfocused, error prone; 5 = immobilized. The authors
are careful to caution the individual that ranking in the immobilized category
might call for consulting a professional for further help.
section on the Nature of Anxiety differentiates between “realistic anxiety”
and “neurotic or everyday anxiety” with the focus on the latter. It is
triggered by the evolutionary “fight or flight” response when adrenaline
arises. This was a response that was needed for survival for the caveman, but
today, most people don’t need all that energy, but “the energy arises anyway
in certain stressful situations. The symptoms are rapid heartbeat, increased
pulse rate, sweaty palms, or attention to everything going on around us.” All
this extra energy, when not used physically, can be an obstacle to performance,
especially in a situation in which the person is asked “to sit quietly,
concentrate, think, and write correct answers.” Occasionally, this can result
in a full-fledged panic attack.
author’s point out that test anxiety is “real” and can appear in many
forms: sweaty palms, rapid
heartbeat, nausea, headache, difficulty swallowing, or mind going blank. These are all “expressions of real fear.”
is also pointed out that some “anxiety can be an advantage—because it makes
people more attentive to the immediate task, and gives them the extra energy
(adrenaline) needed to complete an exam/test/physical challenge successfully.
Telling a person who has “real” anxiety to “calm down and take the test”
is not helpful and next to impossible.
exercises in the workbook will assist the individual in analyzing and
understanding his own personal anxieties and responses to stress, making him
better able to advocate for himself when faced with these situations.
with the use the speedometer-style visual, there is a Test Anxiety Meter, on
which the students can rank their own anxiety levels as: 1 = very low; 2 =low; 3= medium; 4 = high; 5 = very high.
is “one way that people react to stress.” The last meter is one on which
students can rank their own Avoidance Behaviors from 0-5: 0 = positive; 1 = mild; 2 = significant; 3 = limiting; 4 =
excessive; 5 = dangerous.
is stressed by the authors that, “These exercises are not tests; they are
opportunities…To become more aware of physical behaviors and emotions that you
may have interpreted as symptoms of illness, temporary annoyances, unimportant
blips on your personal radar, or even as figments of your imagination.”
II of this amazing little book is a discussion and exercises on stress-reducing
techniques. “Understanding stress and anxiety is the first step. Developing
the ability to cope with stress before it produces the symptoms of anxiety is
the next step.”
the techniques for dealing with stress differ from individual to individual, the
ones that are covered are: desensitization, affirmations, self-talk, reframing,
visualization, self-awareness, goal-setting, relaxation, progressive relaxation,
study skills, test taking techniques, test question analysis, and test
accommodations for individuals who have learning disabilities.
accompanying teacher’s guide contains all the pages that are in the
students’ copy in addition to pages printed on yellow paper for the use by the
teacher. In the first part, the guide is meant as an additional tool. Although
any teacher may have had moments of test anxiety herself, she may never have
experienced it to the severity that many students do. There is an exercise that
guides the teacher to the “brink” of panic, giving her that “aha moment”
of what her students experience during an attack. In Part II, the yellow sheets
are for the instructor to try the various techniques prior to guiding the
students through them, giving the instructor a greater sense of the process.
Anxiety by Cooper and Champlin is a must for teachers, parents, students, and
other educational professionals. It is quite reasonably priced (Student Manual
$5, Teacher’s Guide $9), but it’s worth a million!