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

  1.  Notice what is happening in the present moment (for example, “I am feeling nervous now” or “My thoughts are racing”).
  2.  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”).
  3.  Make an intention to be kind to yourself in the present moment (for example, “May I accept myself as I am”).
  4.  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:

  1.  “I am going to fail this test.”
  2.  “I am having the thought that I am going to fail this test.”
  3.  “I notice that I am having the thought that I am going to fail this test.”
  4.  “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!

Take care of yourself