The American Test Anxieties Association says that 40% of students experience test anxiety. It can be very frustrating for your college student when they have studied all of the material. They may call home looking for solace. They may come home looking to escape the pressure. Is there anything you can do to encourage them?
Resist the urge to rescue and help them face their test challenges with the following strategies instead:
1. Help Them Notice Unproductive Thinking
Do you sense that your student thinks about testing in ways that makes things worse? They may be prone to catastrophizing. This is worst-case scenario thinking that feels very real at the time. This type of thinking can worsen test anxiety significantly.
Students sometimes think that they are doomed to get an awful test score or won’t remember a single fact on an exam. These thoughts seem true to them at the moment. Without judgment, ask them to take a mental step back and gain a bit of perspective. Ask them to challenge the idea that the test is “all or nothing” and look for truths about what they already know and how they can study more.
This will help them slow their thinking and rein in racing thoughts. Finding more realistic ways of thinking about upcoming exams will serve to decrease test anxiety and support improved self-control
2. Promote Positive Self-Talk
There may be a persistent and critical voice inside your student’s head insisting that they are too unprepared, too unintelligent, or too incapable of doing well. These unwanted thoughts and unhelpful self-criticisms only fuel test anxiety and the joy of learning. After a while, your student may start to believe them.
To prevent negativity from overcoming your student’s thoughts, encourage them with affirmation and validation of their strengths. Encourage them to fight the negativity with positive self-talk instead. Let them know that this test does not determine their worth or intelligence.
3. Encourage a Change in Study Approach
Your college student may think that all-night cram sessions will help them, but all it will do is drain their energy. A lack of sleep exacerbates anxiety and brain fog, not helpful for productive studying or test-taking.
How your student lays the foundation for success before a test begins makes a big difference. Encourage them to set aside time to study as well as schedule break times. More importantly, nudge them to use all of the tools available to them. Promote a learning mindset by assuring them that using a tutor, study sessions, a study skills specialist, and conferences with teaching assistants are all good ways to embrace college academics. There is no shame in seeking help.
4. Prompt Physical Health
Your student may be trying to be mentally strong while studying for a test, but wearing themselves down physically. Encourage fresh air, hydration, whole foods, and rest. All are things that were routine at home with you but may be lacking as they adjust to living on their own.
Suggest that a healthy balance of study and exercise will help keep calm and clarity in good supply. Not only will your student burn calories, but they will burn nerves and feel more confident. Conversely remind them that just because they can stay up all night, doesn’t mean they should. Advise at least a solid night’s sleep before the test.
Sometimes Anxiety Needs Extra Care
Taking control of test anxiety may be more than just a self-help measure for your student. If your college student is still struggling, give them your full support by encouraging a session or two with a campus advisor or counselor.
Moreover, ask them to consider online anxiety therapy too. Normalizing mental healthcare can help them feel comfortable reaching out whenever they need help. This is a key skill for any adult. Let us help. Reach out soon so we can assist you and your student navigate test anxiety and more.