Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Managing Test Anxiety

For the most part, mid-term examinations are ending this week at my law school.  Each week during mid-terms, I have had students come by to discuss test anxiety.  Some of them tell me that test anxiety has been an ongoing problem throughout college.  However, most of them tell me that they have never had test anxiety until now.

There are a number of suggestions that I make in hopes of preventing future bouts of test anxiety as their final examinations approach: 

  • Reviewing outlined material regularly throughout the remainder of the semester (rather than cramming at the very end) will provide deeper understanding which can in turn create greater confidence and lower anxiety.
  • Asking professors questions that the student has been unable to resolve (rather than storing them up for six more weeks) will eliminate confusion about material which can in turn lower anxiety about the course.
  • Working as many practice questions as possible for the remainder of the semester will increase skill in applying the nuances of the law which can in turn mean the student is less likely to confront a question scenario which is a total surprise.
  • Working as many practice questions as possible for the remainder of the semester will mean the techniques for taking exams (such as IRAC) are on "auto-pilot" which can in turn mean lower anxiety about how to proceed on a difficult question.
  • Using a very structured weekly time management schedule for the remainder of the semester will allow the student to keep up with current class material while reviewing for exams which can in turn lower anxiety because all tasks are being completed.
  • Using a very structured monthly time management schedule for the remainder of the semester will allow the student to designate course sub-topics to study during review time in the weekly schedule which can in turn lower anxiety as sub-topics are crossed off after each review session.
  • Sleeping a minimum of seven hours per night will help the student be more alert and focused while studying which can in turn create a more positive perspective on law school and lower anxiety.
  • Exercising several times a week will allow the student to take advantage of one of the most effective stress-busters which can in turn lower anxiety about exams (and life).
  • Eating three nutritious meals (rather than junk food) will help the student to have more energy for productive studying which can in turn lower anxiety about getting things done.
  • Practicing simple relaxation exercises (such as deep breathing and gentle shoulder or head rotations) every day will lower stress which can in turn keep test anxiety at bay.
  • Taking several hours off from studying when the student is feeling "nothing is going in" despite best efforts will allow a change of pace which can in turn prevent a student from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Attending counseling (or biofeedback training) through the university counseling center will assist students who have histories of test anxiety in managing the problem which can in turn lower their likelihood of having future severe attacks.

Not all of these suggestions work for every student.  However, most students can find several suggestions on the list that seem good matches to their temperments and needs.  (Amy Jarmon)

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