Stress is the normal process the human body uses to cope with traumatic situations. Yet, many people are of the mistaken belief that only adults suffer from stress. Children even in elementary school also suffer stress. For school age children stress is not only detrimental on their performance during testing, but can also cause permanent damage to the brain. Laboratory tests were done to determine the effects stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Adult rats that where exposed to specific stressors during adolescence were found to have smaller hippocampuses; than the rates that were not exposed to the stressors during their adolescent years. The changes in the structure of the hippocampus could not be reversed later in the lives of the rates. (http://www.researchmatters.harvard.edu/story)
When one is under stress the body releases several hormones, two of which are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline causes one’s blood pressure to increase which in turn causes the heart rate to speedup. Cortisol causes the body’s sugar level to increase.
When the body is under stress the physical changes alone can cause adverse effects on testing. The distraction of a racing heart, will take time and attention away from the actual test itself. In addition to the physical changes one experiences when stressed there are also the effects caused by the chemical changes. The hormones that are present in the bloodstream, when one is suffering from stress, affects certain functions like recall to be performed normally.
I once worked at a bank, and was responsible for marking the tests of people who came in to apply for a job. It was surprising how poorly adults preformed in comparison to the teenagers on the tests. General knowledge questions that adults should have known (in some cases did know) but got wrong. More often the reason for the bad results on the part of the adults was stress, just the word test used to send some adults into a cold sweat.
Everyone suffers from test anxiety at times for different reasons. The following is a list of some ways to help overcome the stress and the affects it has on test results:
-Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test
-Think positively about the outcome of the test
-Eat a well balance meal low in sugar, white flour, and white rice
-Maintain a good body weight
-Meditate and exercise regularly