Exams can seem like an influential period for students, and can be perceived as something that decides their future, so it’s not surprising that the statistics show that nearly half, 47% of Australian students, feel very tense when they study – which is up 10% on the international average.
Now, we shouldn’t expect our sons to be completely calm before exams or tests, as some nerves can act as motivation for study and improve performance (see the inverted U theory of arousal below), however heightened levels of arousal leads to anxiety that impacts negatively on performance.
Some strategies that can help reduce test anxiety;
1: Schedule your time – from waking, to sleeping, to eating, studying and exercising, our brains love routine. By having consistency in our days, it allows our brain to use more energy on study and reduce the overall cognitive load.
2: Sleep, exercise & nutrition – this is something that impacts overall general wellbeing (and will never stop being repeated). Sleep allows memory consolidation, exercise boosts blood flow and alertness (which can be directed to our brain), and eating well is critical to improving concentration and reducing those slumps.
3: Study space – create a space that is only used for study, remove distractions and complete 20 to 30 minute blocks of study, before taking a 5-minute refresher. Make sure your refresher involves moving your body away from your study space and into some fresh air, before returning to your study space and beginning again with a clear mind.
The Reach Out website has some amazing resources for both parents and students – the posters are plastered around my office.
School TV also has a multitude of different articles addressing the many domains of performance anxiety:
Don’t forget, monitoring changes in your son’s behaviour and speaking with him regarding his thoughts and worries is always the first step in seeking help.
Teagan Gmeiner & Leanne Watson