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How To Deal With Test Anxiety By Professor Marcia Tharp, Ph. D. What is test anxiety? According to Paul Nolting Test Anxiety is a learned response. That means we learn to fear a situation in this case taking a test. Sometimes this fear shows up as sweaty palms and blocked thinking before or during a test. Some people cry! Other people actually can make themselves sick over a coming test. Similarly people have learned to fear many things such as heights or flying on an airplane. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THESE FEARS CAN BE UNLEARNED! Who has Test Anxiety? Math test anxiety can affect adults as well as children. It also affects men as well as women. It may be enhanced if you have math anxietythat is a fear of doing math to begin with. But if you have a poor math background it is more likely you will have math anxiety and math test anxiety. Here is a way you can see if you have Math Test Anxiety. Try this test. Answer yes or no to the following questions. There are no correct answers and this does not count for a grade. So relax! 1. Do you have sweaty palms, or an upset stomach, or pain in the neck or stiff shoulders or feelings of nervousness during a math test? Yes or No 2. Do you draw a blank at the beginning of taking a math test? Yes or No 3. Do you feel you must rush to be the first person finished during a math test? Yes or No 4. Do you have negative self talk during a math test in which you put your self down and loose focus on recalling the math concepts you need? Yes or No Here is a way you see if you have Math Test Anxiety. Try this test. Answer yes or no to the following questions. There are no correct answers and this does not count for a grade. So relax! 5. Do you avoid math tests by being sick on the day of the test intentionally? Yes or No 6. Do you use all the time given to take a test? Yes or No 7. Do you feel the need to leave a math test early? Yes or No 8. Do you avoid doing math homework because it brings up anxiety about doing math? Yes or No Review your results. If you answered yes to any one of these questions you may have math test anxiety. Now continue to see why people have math test anxiety. Why do people have Math Test Anxiety? There are many reasons a student can have math test anxiety. However please remember that you are not born with Math Test Anxiety. It is a learned response! A person who has math test anxiety may have: Had a bad elementary school math experience. been embarrassed by a teacher or peer. They may have been made fun of for their math abilities. had a teacher who insisted that there was only one way to complete a problem and they had another logical way to do it. had parents, teachers or significant others with unreasonable expectations of them. These level of expectations may have been either too high or too low. Why do people have Math Test Anxiety? There are many reasons a student can have math test anxiety. However please remember that you are not born with Math Test Anxiety. It is a learned response! A person who has math test anxiety may have: been associating their self worth with a number grade. felt a lack of control and inability to change their life situation. taken timed tests and feared they could not finish their work even when they could do all the problems. been placed in a math class above their level of understanding. What can I do about it? Here are some strategies for dealing with math test anxiety. Try some relaxation techniques. Here is a link to a web page that will help you to learn to relax. I suggest you do this for 15 minutes a day for at least two weeks prior to a test. Use the Relaxation Response during your next test. Link to the Relaxation Response http://www.ucop.edu/humres/eap/relaxationrespone.html What can I do about it? Here are some strategies for dealing with math test anxiety. Use deep breathing to relieve stress immediately. You will relax and at the same time get more oxygen in to your brain where it is needed. Again you will need to practice this for at least a week before taking a math test. Link to how to use Deep Breathing http://www.deepsloweasy.com/html/intro.htm What can I do about it? Here are some strategies for dealing with math test anxiety. Replace your”negative self talk” with positive statements about your ability to do math and take math tests. Link to how to deal with negative self talk: http://www.mathtutor.eku.edu/negtalk.htm What can I do about it? Here are some strategies for dealing with math test anxiety. During a test focus your attention away from yourself and your performance and back to the problem you are working on. Do this by clapping your hands or mentally telling your self to STOP! Next choose a problem on the test that you are familiar with and know is an easy problem to do. Remember that everyone is in the same boat with you and must work to get their solutions too. It is o.k. Take your time and breathe deep! What can I do about it? Here are some strategies for dealing with math test anxiety. Be sure to start studying for your exams early. Research shows that the more hours you devote to reviewing for a test the more likely you are to do well on it. Do not wait until the last minute. A weekly review of everything you have learned that week will help you to be ready for math tests. Remember even though you may have learned to relax for a test you will still need to know and understand the information you are being tested on. So test relaxation and studying are equally important to your success! References Math Study Skills Workbook by Paul Nolting, Ph. D. 2000, Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston MA Over Coming Math Anxiety Second Edition by Randy Davidson and Ellen Levitov,2000 Addison Wesley Reading MA Study Skills Workbook by Dianna L. Hestwood and Linda C. Russell from the Basic College Mathematics Sixth Edition, 2002 Addison Wesley Boston MA