Even though my children are still so young, they’re faced with tests in schools all the time. The pressure of these tests on my children is definitely something I do worry about,
Most children experience some level of nervousness before tests. A little bit of tension can actually help motivate; however, if that nervousness gets to be too much, it can interfere with their ability to either prepare for or perform on a test.
There are typically a few types of anxious reactions when it comes to taking a test or examination. The first comes from not being well enough prepared. That is a rational reaction. Another can come when the child has prepared enough for an examination, but still begin to panic. Another may occurs when they’ve had some bad test experiences in their past and they begin to focus on the negative instead of the positive experiences. While these last two aren’t unusual, there are things kids can do so that they don’t ‘blank out’, feel ill, or lose focus.
There are three steps that you can encourage your children to take in order to alleviate their anxiety:
The first step to alleviating test anxiety is making sure they prepare well. Spread their studying of materials over longer periods of time while studying in short bursts (between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on ability to focus) rather than cramming the night before. Encourage children to focus more on the items that they understand but may need more practice to learn, rather than spending too much time on items that they already know or those that they find too difficult. Finally, try to think of the main points they’ve covered in class; how might they be posed as questions on the exam?
The second step is to begin focus their attitude toward test taking. Help your children identify the thoughts that lead to their anxiety. Help them try to fight those negative thoughts by coming up with more realistic and balanced thinking, and remind them of times when they have had positive results. For example: A child may think “I’m going to fail my math test tomorrow.” Is this fact or opinion? What are the true facts? A more balanced thought could be, “I have prepared for my math exam and should do okay. But if I don’t do well, it’s not the end of the world. I can figure out what went wrong and see if I can improve my mark next time.” Truly, there is no benefit to negative thinking. Children may see their exam grades as a reflection of who they are or predict their future success. While it’s true that exams can be important, many people have gone on to succeed even after a bad test grade.
The third step is to use relaxation techniques while doing their studies, before the test and during the test. Visualisation, meditation and deep breathing are three things you can easily do. There are many resources online. Children do best if they practice these techniques first when they are not already stressed. Start by doing the exercise(s) right before going to bed, after dinner or after coming home from school. Once they feel comfortable doing these, start to apply them to low stress level events, such as before doing their homework in their strongest subject. Continue over time to build up to applying this to more and more stressful areas in their lives until they can relieve the majority of their physical symptoms with ease.
On the day of the test, there are a few things students can do to help themselves. Make sure they arrive on time. Don’t try to cram in any further information. Do not focus on what other students are saying about their own worries or questions. Do one of their relaxation techniques while imagining themselves being successful. When they get to the test, remind them to take their time and focus on what they can do well. Don’t linger over a question for too long or worry about getting it perfect. Finally, reward them for taking the test and trying their hardest.
To best help your child, Firefly Education London is holding a course aimed at those taking 11+ and Common Entrance, taking place the week of 14th December at Abingdon House School. Firefly are offering our readers 10% off the December, by using code MyBaba10.
Liane Thakur, experienced child and adolescent counselor, will lead these dynamic days which will give your child practical tips to sit through exams with less anxiety so they can perform better and feel happier. Liane has a BA in Psychology from Princeton University, MA in Clinical Psychology from Marywood University and a PGDip in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Oxford University.
Too reserve a place on the course or for more information, call Natalie at Firefly Education London on 020 3818 5859 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The link to site for more info is this http://www.fireflyeducation.co.uk/tutoring/training/) general site is fireflyeducation.co.uk