Side effects may include: headaches, upset stomach, shortness of breath, and inability to concentrate.
These symptoms and more plague the nearly 16-20 percent of students (according to the American Test Anxieties Association) who experience severe test anxiety, often affecting their performance in school; and for students who pay attention in class, study, and are generally prepared, it can be frustrating to repeatedly fall short of their potential.
A quick Google search for “test anxiety” will return literally hundreds of thousands of results instructing students to “prepare more” or to “get a good night’s sleep,” but very few on what schools can do to accommodate those who have already exhausted all of these strategies.
Of course, it is normal for students to feel somewhat nervous or anxious before tests. This is part of what makes it so difficult for schools and professionals to diagnose and assist students with truly debilitating test anxiety. Nevertheless, it needs to become a priority.
Students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities or ADHD are entitled to help on tests, including additional time to work or having questions read aloud to them- so why isn’t the procedure the same for students whose anxiety surrounding exams can seriously hurt their scores?
The same accommodations should be made for students whose anxiety prohibits them from earning grades that reflect their effort in class. Students must make a point of seeking help from their teachers, but those teachers must also make a point of taking a deeper look. Does the student come in for help often? Do they succeed on homework assignments and projects? If a student is simply unable to demonstrate their knowledge in a formal testing environment, it should be a signal for teachers to get the attention of someone who can provide the necessary support.
Teachers should be responsible for involving a guidance counselor or other professional who can determine if the issue goes beyond academics. It can then be decided how to handle the problem, whether the student needs extra time, a different place to test, or an entirely new form of assessment.
It is crucial that schools improve their efforts to provide assistance to students dealing with test anxiety, so that they do not continue to study in vain or to suffer in silence.