By Leslie K. Taylor, PhD

As the first day of school approaches, parents and children gather their backpacks as educators finalize lesson plans and ready their classrooms. The new school year offers a fresh start for students as well as an opportunity for academic success. However, up to 40% of students[1] suffer from test anxiety, which contributes to lower grade point averages and decreased scores in standardized tests. Test anxiety is a multi-dimensional experience associated with cognitive (excessive worry about performance the night before or during the test; worry just after taking the test), physiological (heart racing, difficulty sleeping before the test), and behavioral components (avoidance of study)[2]. The cognitive dimension of test anxiety can be exceptionally difficult for students to cope with and reconcile. For example, despite preparing, students may believe that, while taking the test, they aren’t ready for it, and that the content is too challenging for them. Experiencing these thoughts during tests can result in diminished concentration on test material, making it more difficult for students to retrieve the information that they have studied[3] and do well on the test.

Students can experience text anxiety for a number of reasons. Some children have difficulty learning or struggle with paying attention, which intensifies anxiety about tests. Children who seem more concerned about making mistakes, such as playing poorly in sports, or performing in front of others, may also be at risk for test anxiety.

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