Final exam season has arrived. These last two weeks of the semester can be a super stressful time for both instructors and students. For this week’s edition of Magna Mondays, we chose a 20-Minute Mentor presented by Dr. Kristin Roush about how instructors can help students alleviate test anxiety. You can watch “How Can Students Use Self-Compassion to Reduce Test Anxiety?” in 20-Minute Mentor Commons in the Chapman University Magna Campus.
Why should instructors care about test anxiety?
According to Dr. Roush, instructors should care about the test anxiety of students because:
“The purpose of testing is to assess whether and how well students understand the material. Test anxiety is a contaminating variable that yields invalid results.” -Dr. Kristin Roush
What can students before a test to reduce anxiety?
Some things that students can do before a test to reduce anxiety during the test are:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Eating well.
- Preparing well for the test by taking good notes, studying, joining a study group, etc.
- Performing a random act of kindness on the day of the test (doing good for others helps us to feel grateful and empowered rather than feeling like a victim).
- Arriving to the classroom early.
What can students do during a test to reduce anxiety?
Dr. Roush recommends practicing mindful self-compassion during a test. Mindful self-compassion is:
“being kind to ourselves, in the context of our shared human experience, while being mindful of our present experience.” -Dr. Kristen Neff
Some specific techniques are:
- Breathing, being sure to exhale as much as you are inhaling
Taking a self-compassion break
- Notice what is happening in the present moment (for example, “I am feeling nervous now” or “My thoughts are racing”).
- Remind yourself that what you are experiencing is something that everyone goes through sometimes (for example, “It makes sense to feel this way in this situation; most people do”).
- Make an intention to be kind to yourself in the present moment (for example, “May I accept myself as I am”).
- Make an intention to treat yourself with loving compassion (for example, “I am my own best friend”).
Technique for detaching from fearful thoughts
During a test, you might find yourself having a fearful thought, such as, “I am going to fail this test.” Dr. Roush recommends being mindful of the thought and distancing yourself from it as follows:
- “I am going to fail this test.”
- “I am having the thought that I am going to fail this test.”
- “I notice that I am having the thought that I am going to fail this test.”
- “I am not my thoughts.”
Overall, Dr. Roush recommends treating yourself the way that you would treat a friend or a loved one who is going through a difficult time.
“The research about the effects of self-compassion are very similar to what we see about the effects of living a mindful lifestyle. There is less likelihood of anxiety, depression, and fear of failure – and greater reports of well-being, psychological health and overall life satisfaction.”
-Dr. Kristin Roush
Wishing you a wonderful week!