What is the cause of Test Stress

Testing by definition means stress.

To test the shock absorbers on a car, manufacturers put the shocks through myriad stress tests.

To increase the strength on the various muscle groups of the body, health club members increase the stress upon the muscles in order to break-down the muscles, which are in turn built-up in a stronger way, during the hours of rest that follow the exercises.

To test the knowledge of any student, the teacher must create a series of applicable questions to elicit recall from the student’s long-term memory, which is the location intended by the teacher for storage of the important subject, being taught.

If a teacher were to test students on material, not as yet taught, then this would cause undue stress, even for conscientious students.  (This would most certainly cause residual stress for the teacher, regarding uncertainty of continued employment.)  😉

When the teacher studiously-creates a test that accurately details the progress of the class discussions, yet some student does not take the matter to heart to result in adequate study beforehand.  Said student will experience intense, and hopefully for the future, corrective-stress.

However, usually the matter of stress is more visceral than an inaccurate test or lack of study.

Agoraphobia can be the constant irritant of many students on a daily basis, causing a “nervous stomach,” worries over daily performance in class, and even fears, like “What if I can’t get to the bathroom in time?”

This describes daily agoraphobia (or fear of large groups.)  

On test day the accompanying stress level doubles, triples, or more.  (Research for this fact was not required, since experience is plethora.)

This writer was even one of two co-Valedictorians in the high school graduating class, sharing a 4.0 average.  Straight A’s or not, Test Stress was consistently a bane to the existence.

Test Stress can be so debilitating that the student can completely “draw a blank,” during the test, when mere minutes before the student was breezing through the material with a parent or a friend.

What is the cause of Test Stress?  (There are many theories, but the simplest reason seems most probable for remediation of symptoms.)  Of the four personalities, known to exist among humans, the choleric (or Dominant) personality appears to be the most prepared for conflicts (aka tests) of any type.

The choleric may not always make a “100” on his or her test, but neither does this student seem prone to Test Stress.  (Perhaps the reader knows the type.  “They may not always be right, but they are NEVER in doubt.”)

At the other end of the testing spectrum is the melancholy (aka perfectionistic) student, who may or may not always be depressed, but who can usually be quite accurate in the pin-pointing of his or her position on the emotional spectrum between the two extremes of joy and sadness.

The melancholy student, (including the writer,) is the most consistent personality to experience Test Stress.

The melancholy student is typically the most-impaired as to the process of testing, while being clearly the most capable of engaging the Test, if only we could defeat the Test-Monster inside of our heads.

The melancholy student is typically so smart and so highly intelligent that the phrase, “You think too much!,” becomes a near-mantra, expressed to us by those who are dearest to us.

What solutions have the greatest potential for mitigating Test Stress?

1.  Have the student write every word of major points in the material, being studied.  (It is best if these points are written multiple times, before the test, but over the course of the testing period, since such repetition the night before the test could do more harm than good.)

2.  Classic music has more benefits than most students may be willing to allow at first glance.  Being AD/HD is an extreme problem on test day, since every little sight or sound can interrupt thought, while answering questions.  Classic music acts as “white noise” to block-out many distractions as well as being an aid to memory, when the same classic pieces are played, during study sessions, and then played again (or at least remembered) during the test.

(If iPods, or even cell phones with playback capability, may be used with earphones, during a test then the classic music prompt technique could be the quickest and most effective solution.)

3.  Finally, if long lists of names, places, or things or required for recall on certain aspects of the test, then the creation of acrostic words can be easily used as prompts for the list.  

(For instance, a student may need to recall the 17 states that share the international border with Canada, and Mexico.  The phrases, “MAN, O MAN! TWo VIPs N-CoMMoN!” could potentially deflate an imposing task, since the student could more easily recall the border states in this order:  Maine, Arizona, New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Alaska, New York, Texas, Washington, Vermont, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, California, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico.)

Are these techniques guaranteed to work?  Hardly.  

Children, as we all know, do not come to us from an assembly line.  Yet, at least one child has received significant benefit from these techniques.  

Right?  Write.  😉