By José Pablo Velásquez Alvarado – Education career student
Ever since I was a child, and later an adolescent, I had many problems focusing during exams and tests. One of the biggest factors that blocked me mentally and set my mind spiraling out of control, especially before starting, was test anxiety. My heart began to race, my palms were sweaty, and my mind was elsewhere in anticipation; this is a description of what many students of all ages feel when getting anxious for a test. Test anxiety is a concept that is described by Aydin (2019) as “the cognitive, physiological, and behavioral responses surrounding the concerns about the possibilities of poor performance on a test” (p. 31); this is the definition used for the article. The purpose of this moxie article is to deconstruct test anxiety and provide an effective countermeasure practical for students of any age.
What is Test Anxiety?
There are many authors that have expanded upon the manifestations/components of test anxiety in students, which generally include thoughts, off-task behaviors, and autonomic reactions (Aydin, 2019). The thoughts component can be described as the cognitive resources focused on self-critical concerns regarding the test or the individual. The off-task behaviors component is described as distractions and nervous habits related to task-irrelevant stimuli, and the autonomic reactions component includes the physiological manifestations of anxiety. Research also suggests that the older the student becomes, the more acute the thoughts component becomes. This is due to the fact that cognitive development enhances their abstract thinking and awareness, which increases the symptoms of anxiety in the students. This phenomenon contributes to the rest of the components listed above because of the heightened self-awareness, an aspect that in turn fuels the others (Lowe, 2019).
Adolescence and Mindfulness
As Anila & Dhanalakshmi (2016) express, adolescence is a pivotal stage in an individual’s life. There are many factors that tie their emotional and cognitive development to their academic performance, such as meeting high expectations, dealing with increased competition, and struggling to find an identity and a balanced self-image. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is an approach that aids the student to focus and bring awareness to present experiences. This aims to increase attention, concentration, and long-term mental health by exposing students to mindfulness meditation through several weeks’ worth of training. Felver, Morton & Clawson (2018) conclude in their group study evaluating this approach to be effective in post-secondary students, decreasing distress and anxiety, and improving self-control, performance, and long-term mental health.
Adolescents, as well as many other academic populations, have to go through test anxiety at some points in their lives. Many students face difficulties overcoming it, which not only affects their school performance, but can also undermine their potential futures. The different components of test anxiety are explored, from which the cognitive aspect stands out as a determining factor for this kind of anxiety.
Mindfulness, although not widely discussed, has many measures that prevent this type of mentality, and gives students tools to combat test anxiety effectively.